33 answers

Pregnancy and Cat Litter

I am not pregnant yet (that I know of:) but we have 2 inside cats. I am usually the one who cleans the pans and I know that once I get pregnant my husband will need to take over this chore. He has no problem with it. I would like to know if that is the only precaution we need to take or if simply being around the smell of the cat pan could harm the baby as well. Even cleaning it everyday there is still an odor especially right after the cats use it. The smell can be very strong. My husband works long hours so it's not like he's there to clean it everytime they use it.

What can I do next?

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Toxoplasmosis is acquired through the oral fecal route, I do not think it is air borne...smell should not carry the parasite.

Cats carry a disease that causes miscarriages. It is in their stools, so you arent suppose to touch them, or breath it in, like the dust, which would be contaminated by the stool. Not all cats carry this, however more often then not, a cat has it. It doesnt affect the cat itself, however humans and other animals, like sheep, miscarry because of it. Good Luck!

PS its always better to have someone else do it anyways :D right now I have my son do it, just because I hate the bending over. he is lower to the ground ;)

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M.,

The issue is in the cat feces. Cats can carry toxoplasmosis. It is symptom free (so you will never know your cat has it) and comes from contact with insects, rodents or other animals who carry it, so any indoor or outdoor cat can get it.

If you scoop the cat feces, you can get the toxoplasmosis. It won't do a thing to you, but can be harmful to the development of the baby. It is very rare, (so you will meet women who say "I always changed the cat box and nothing bad happened") but all 3 of my OBs have said that I was not to change to litter just in case. (My husband thinks it is a conspiracy between female OBs and their patients.)

Good luck,
S.

1 mom found this helpful

We also have cats, of which my hubby and I have taken precausions (I'm due in Sept)

I've been told it's changing the litter, because of the dust that is usually inthe air. The strong smell of the urine/fecies is not harmful, however...I've been taking the precausing and just staying away from the area if it's strong smelling, or just after my husband has changed the litter box. If he changes it (or cleans it out), I don't go near it until the next day, to ensure that the dust settled and I won't be breathing in it. That is the extreme precausion, because I've been told that you actually can change it when pregnant, you just have to NOT touch it and wear gloves and a brething mask to protect your airways from enhaling the toxins.

Hope this helps. :)

Misty, just to let you know that both times I was pregnant, it was my husband's responsibility to ensure the cat litter was changed as needed and he usually failed to do this. It was a disgusting mess in our basement and to this day I am still upset about it, because it could have caused terrible problems for me and our babies. However, my point is that I lived in a household with filthy cat pans and never once suffered the effects of the toxicity it can cause. I believe it is rare that people get ill from this sort of thing. You may very well be more likely to get sick from a tomato or a store-bought cookie these days anyhow.

Being around the smell is not harmful - just annoying!
Before you get pregnant, you might consider getting tested for toxoplasmosis. You might have it already and not know it. If you do have it, it won't harm your pregnancy, but then you will know when you do get pregnant. I was tested during my pregnancy and found to be positive for it, but they weren't sure if it was a new exposure or something I had had for a while. Getting tested before you get pregnant can just save you some worrying during your pregnancy.

If your cats are only indoor cats then you don't have to much to worry about, even if you can smell it. If they are also outdoor then you should be more careful. I was worried about this when I was pregnant also, but my doctor reassured me that even if I had to empty the litter box it wouldn't be that big of a deal as long as they were strictly indoor. I didn't tell my husband this:)

M.,

The smell of urine is nothing to worry about, as long as you can stand the smell. Not sure what litter you are using, but I have never been able to smell the boxes, even if they are dirty. We have the type with a cover and a flap for the door. They say not to clean the litter box when pregnant, but my sister did when pregnant with all 3 of her kids. She just wore gloves and a mask.

Many people think they have to get rid of a cat when they become pregnant and that is so untrue...

It's not the odor that is dangerous, but the dust from the pans. You will need to ensure that you are not breathing the dust when the pans are being cleaned or used. You will also need to stay away from areas where the dust collects and have them cleaned regularly with antibacterial/germicidal disinfectants.

I don't think there is any problem with the smell causing problems. As far as I know as long as you don't come in contact with the cat poo itself it should be fine. I sometimes had to clean our litter box while I was pregnant and I used gloves and a mask to keep the dust, and any germs that might float around, out of my nose and mouth. Good luck.

There's no problem being around the odor of the catbox - it's any 'particles' that can fly up from the cat feces during cleaning it out that would be potentially dangerous for you to inhale. (This is according to my vet and OB/GYN). We also have 2 inside cats and my husband took over box duties while I was expecting, but it was totally safe for me to do laundry in the same room as the boxes. I'd just wait maybe 10 or 15 minutes after a cleaning for any dust to settle.

I'm pregnant right now and avoiding cat litter too. My ferret uses cat litter and I won't change that right now either.

I've heard that if your cats do have that toxioplasmus or whatever it's called that you've more than likely been exposed to it long ago since the cats have been around for awhile and technically speaking since you've been exposed to it won't hurt you or baby. I have no idea if this is true but I swear I had a doctor tell me this in the past.

Anyhow being that catlitter is a pain I love the excuse of being pregnant and not being able to change it so I do stay away from it as well as the fumes like if it's real strong cause it hasn't been changed I stay away.

M.,
The smell won't hurt anything,though it might make you gag. It is the cat FECES that is the issue. The FECES can be harmful to the fetus. Having your husband clean the litterbox daily (as you said he will) is all that is needed.
S.

M. - I wouldn't worry about the cats. It's not the smell that is harmful, it's a little parasite called Toxoplasmosis, which is really not much of anything at all if you are careful!

I've enclosed a copy of an article from Cat FAncy magazine regarding pregnancy and litterboxes, hope it's helpful! From what has been explained to me, unless your cat picks it up for the FIRST time while your pregnant, and you've never been exposed to it before, then you have issues. You said they were housecats, tho, and unless they are eating rodents, I highly doubt it's even going to be an issue :)

Good luck with the future baby!

THE FACTS ABOUT TOXOPLASMOSIS & PREGNANCY

When the pregnant cat owner first encounters this word while leafing through a book about mothers-to-be, she feels a stab in the pit of her stomach. Reading on only increases her feelings of dread: "A pregnant woman can get it from a cat... She can pass it on to her developing baby... It can cause birth defects." While there is a reason for concern, there's no need to panic, say veterinarians and gynecologists.
"Doctors used to say the woman should get rid of the cat, but that's totally unnecessary," says Dr. Michael Davidson, associate professor of companion animal and special species medicine at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The only way a woman can get toxoplasmosis from a cat is through direct contact with its feces, which most people try to avoid anyway! A few simple precautions are all that's needed to prevent exposure to this parasite during pregnancy.

Some 80 percent of domestic cats are exposed to toxoplasmosis during their lives, usually as a result of eating a mouse, mole, squirrel or other infected prey. Some cats show no symptoms; others get diarrhea or become listless. Occasionally, pneumonia or eye inflammation occurs. Indoor cats in rodent-free homes may never be exposed.

As many as 60 percent of humans also become exposed, usually after handling cat feces either in a litter box or garden, says Dr. Davidson. Chances are, most cat owners who have lived with felines for any length of time have already been exposed to toxoplasmosis. Like cats, people generally show no symptoms or appear to have only a mild "flu." Although a person shows no symptoms, he or she still produces an antibody, thus building up immunity.

"If you have been exposed to toxoplasmosis and produced an antibody, you're pretty well protected," says Dr. John Botti, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Penn State University College of Medicine. If a woman is exposed to the parasite for the first time during pregnancy, though, the effects that it will have on her and the baby depend on how far along she is in the pregnancy. During the first three months, it is unlikely that a woman will pass the parasite on to her developing fetus. If toxoplasmosis is transmitted to the baby during this time, however, the chances are greatest that the baby will develop a major health problem. Conversely, a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy is most likely to pass on toxoplasmosis to her baby, but the parasite is least likely to cause serious birth defects.

Statistics show that of the 4 million babies born in the United States each year, only 1,200 suffer any effects from toxoplasmosis. Most of these babies have only mild problems, such as a rash or an eye infection. Nonetheless, the parasite can cause grave damage to a growing fetus. In rare instances, babies have developed hydrocephalus (a condition in which the brain swells), mental retardation and anemia.

To eliminate the risk of exposure to toxoplasmosis, pregnant cat owners should avoid handling the litter box by having someone else perform the task, or simply wear gloves when cleaning it, and washing hands thoroughly afterwards. This also applies to gardening, especially if outdoor cats frequent the area. "Just use common sense," Dr. Davidson advises. As an added precaution, he recommends that the litter box be changed daily because, once the organism is shed, it takes at least 24 hours for it to become transmissible to humans. Interestingly, cats can only shed the organism in their feces one time during their lives - just after they have been exposed for the first time. And, Dr. Davidson says, "It's unlikely they'll shed it during a woman's pregnancy."

A simple blood test can determine if a person has ever been exposed to toxoplasmosis. Unfortunately, it cannot specify when exposure occurred, so it's a good idea for a woman to be tested before becoming pregnant. If she has been exposed she will know for sure it was prior to her pregnancy.

Toxoplasmosis should be taken seriously, but it's no reason for pregnant women to get rid or even avoid their cats. During pregnancy, a woman has days when she feels apprehensive about the future or stressed about her weight gain or fearful of the impending delivery. The perfect remedy - and one that is completely safe - may be to curl up on the sofa with a feline friend.

Reprinted with permission from CATS Magazine, March 1995 by Colleen O'Dea.

I worked in an animal hospital the whole time I was pregnant. The biggest thing to worry about is if your cat is a carrier of the disease that causes Toxoplasmosis. Even if they are you just need to wash your hands real well, especially under your nails,or wear gloves. It really has nothing to do with the litter (although I am sure litter dust isnt the best thing to breathe in)I would worry most about your cat being a carrier of this if it is an outdoor cat. They mainly get it from eating dead things (birds, mice, other poop etc)It is very rare in this part of the country too. Chances are if your cat has had it already, they wont get it again too. I wouldnt stress too much if you do have to clean the box occasionally.

Cats carry a disease that causes miscarriages. It is in their stools, so you arent suppose to touch them, or breath it in, like the dust, which would be contaminated by the stool. Not all cats carry this, however more often then not, a cat has it. It doesnt affect the cat itself, however humans and other animals, like sheep, miscarry because of it. Good Luck!

PS its always better to have someone else do it anyways :D right now I have my son do it, just because I hate the bending over. he is lower to the ground ;)

The reason pregnant women are not supposed to change the litter is a parasite called toxoplasmosis. This parasite is carried by some cats; particularly outdoor cats. It has a fecal oral transmission, so handling contaminated cat litter while pregnant, can cause fetal birth defects. If your cats do not have this parasite, or you have already been exposed prior to becoming pregnant, then there is no risk. However, the only way to be sure of prior exposure or if your cats are negative is blood testing. Therefore, pregnant women are advised to avoid the litter box. You can not catch the parasite from odor alone, you need to inhale kitty litter particles directly to get this. So just smelling the odor in another room won't cause you to become infected.

Also, cats that defacate in the soil outside are a contamination risk. Be careful when gardening and wear gloves.

Hope that helps.

the odor is stinky, and it wont hurt you. obviously you wont be cleaning it when you are pregnant, but dont worry about the smell unless it is aggrivating or causing morning sickness issues. your sense of smell if you are pregnant is quite probably going to be stronger.

good luck, but relax, the smell shouldnt hurt you or your baby. consult your doctor if you want, they may know something i dont. LOL

With my first, I had a cat, and still cleaned the litter box, but I wore a mask so I was not inhaling any of the fumes. I was very careful, and if for some reason it was real dirty, I wore gloves as well. Just make sure that the room that the litter box is in, that it has alot of ventulation.
Now if you have any problems at all with the pregnancy, I would not even do anything with the litter box. Good luck.

You can get tested for the virus (I can't remember the name) but once you've been exposed you or your fetus are no longer in danger. It's a simple blood test that you can request when they do all your other blood work. You don't even have to tell your husband that your having it done. That way if you are immune and you still want to use pregnancy as an excuse not to clean it....:)

I got tested, just because I got sick of harping on my husband to clean the litter box all the time. Plus it takes the worry off of you. Who needs more things to worry about.

Hi M.. I'm a stay-at-home mom now, but used to work in veterinary medicine, so I feel qualified enough to give you a decent response. First of all, the strong smell you're talking about it ammonia and on a level that cat urine emits, you don't have to worry about it harming the baby. (Surrounding yourself in a closed room while cleaning with ammonia would be a different story, I'd imagine!) I wouldn't think twice about that again... But the reason you don't want to clean the box is because of a parasite that some kitties carry called toxoplasmosis. They can carry toxoplasmosis without any signs or symptoms and they can shed the microscopic eggs in their stool. What worries docs is the possibility of you possibly getting these eggs underneath your fingernails, etc. while cleaning the box and possibly ingesting them. They can cause larval migrans into muscle tissue and that can cause a miscarriage during the first trimester. Many people are exposed throughout their lives having cats in the house, but unless pregnant, toxoplasmosis has no real effect. The larval migrans will remain in encapsulated in muscle tissue for the duration of their lives. (The life cycle is based on the muscle tissue being consumed by a predator - nothing you need to worry about!)... I grew up with 2 cats in the house and spent 12 of my adult years working with wild cats (cougars, bobcats) and domestic cats. I had myself tested when I was pregnant with my first baby and I had never been exposed in all of those years. That's how rare this is. I still used precautions when pregnant, but still worked with cats. It's a good idea to avoid cleaning the box, but if you do, just use gloves and wash your hands very well afterwards... It's easy to google toxoplasmosis and do your research, but try not to worry about it. The stress of the worry is not worth it, compared to your risk of exposure - which is very, very small. Your cat probably doesn't carry it (as he/she is indoors and doesn't hunt), but always better to be safe than sorry when pregnant. This was much longer than I meant it too be. Sorry! But hope I could end your worries...
...and, by the way, when talking about "inhaling the dust" - again, the concern is that the microscopic eggs can be in the stool. If the stool is dried out and the eggs could be just as dry and "float" through the air as the stools are disturbed. So unless you wait days and days in between cleaning your boxes, that's not much of a concern, either, but be careful.

The smell from them using it should be ok. But I would be careful of the dust in the air after scooping. Another thought, have yourself/cats tested for Toxoplasmosis. If they are indoor cats you haven't caught it from them yet they probably don't have it. Not all cats have it, mainly the outdoor cats. The only place they can catch it is from rodents. You should still be careful and avoid the boxes but it doesn't need to be such a big concern. Hope this helps.

Hi M.!

If you are trying to get pregnant, I would not be cleaning the cat pan. I would just let it wait for you hubby when he gets home to do it. When I was prego with my kids I was by the pans and the smell did not bother my childrens life. I just would not change the pan, and let your hubby start changing the pan. Maybe get your hubby to change the pan before he goes to work and in the morning or when he goes to work. You could also get a friend to help you with it. I wish you the best good luck!

C.

M.- Go to your OB/GYN and ask for a blood test for toxoplasmosis (sp?) If you are positive for this, then you can not clean the litter box. I was positive for this and had my husband clean the litter box during the whole pregnancy ( and then the job stuck until our cat died).

Good Luck, H.

I changed the little all the time when I was pregnant, because my husband does have a problem with it...my OB said it was fine

I went out and got those paper masks you wear when your painting, it isn't so much the litter itself but the scent of the urine that bothered my 'pregnancy' nose

Toxoplasmosis is acquired through the oral fecal route, I do not think it is air borne...smell should not carry the parasite.

When I was pregnant I spoke to my Vet about the litter box issue. Turns out that the real issue is when the feces dries out then when scooped or moved in anyway the fecal matter becomes dust. If the cat has toxoplasmosis then that will be in the dust as well. So what you should do is as has been suggested get tested and find out if you have the toxoplasmosis present already and if so you have nothing to worry about. If not have your husband clean the litter box. If he is unable to keep up with it then scoop the box a couple of time a day so that the feces doesn't get a chance to dry out. I would also wear one of those little mask you can get at the hardware store so you don't inhale any dust. Also, any questions you have about this issue you can ask you Vet who my have more information on the toxoplasmosis than your OB who may simply know that it can be a risk to a developing baby. Good luck getting pregnant!

We had 4 cats when I was pregnant & after our daughter was born. Our litter boxes are in the laundry room downstairs so I was only around them when I did laundry & since Olivia was never in the laundry room as a baby, we didn't have any problems.
It should be okay when you get pregnant if your husband is cleaning the boxes. But, when the baby gets mobile move the boxes out of his/her reach. The laundry room works great for us because it has a door we can close & its large enough for the boxes.
We now only have 2 cats (2 passed away) & Olivia just loves then. They play with her & even sleep with her sometimes. We kept Olivia's room closed when she was sleeping as a baby/toddler. Teaching Olivia how to be gentle with the cats has made her a gentle child in general.
Best wishes to you!!

It is actually the cat feces that could possibly contain a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis. The smell has nothing to do with it. You can clean the box yourself as long as you wear gloves and wash your hands (and the gloves) after you clean. P.S. Chances are you have already gotten the parasite inside your body at some point in time and have become immune but better safe than sorry.

My OB said I would be ok if i wore gloves ( of course still wash good afterwards) and you could wear a mask..but i just covered my nose with my shirt. I had 2 pregnancys and cats in the house for both... no problems.

I got tested for exposure to toxoplasmosis to see if I could not worry about the cat issue altogether. Despite being around cats my whole life, no exposure, so care was needed. You may want to get tested just to ease your mind and know one way or another.

The odor isn't the problem it's a specific parasite found in cat feces. As long as you don't touch it you should be fine. Although I have read that you can get it from touching your cats paws. Not all cats have the parasite. You could have your cat tested by a vet.

Avoid places ware outdoor cats may go, such as sand boxes and flower beds. Wear rubber gardening gloves if you garden.

No worries! Actually if you've had cats for awhile you have probably already had the infection toxoplasmosis. And once you've had it you can't get it again. For most non-pregnant people, they don't even know it when they get it. But even if you haven't you don't need to worry about it being in the air. It's just coming in contact with the feces of cats and other animals that carry it. Cats are known to be common carriers, but other wild animals as well. If you did need to clean the litter at some point, you could just wear gloves and wash your hands throughly afterwards. Plus if you have a cat that never goes outside, then he won't have it. It comes from catching live prey.

Hi M.,
I know this isn't answering your question, but when my cousin was married to her X, he refused to change the litter box (he was a real jerk), so she had to do it every time. Their daughter was born with an extra finger on each hand. I have no idea if the cat litter had anything to do with that, but just thought I'd throw that out there. The Dr just took a piece of thin wire and sliced off the extra finger. Sounds painful, but probably not any worse than a boy getting circumsized at birth. I have always had two cats with all my pregnancies, but my hubby changed ours.

Hi M.-
I am a single mom and have cleaned the cat litter thru both of my pregnancies. I just used rubber gloves throughout the process and then washed my hands at the end to make double sure. I also made sure not to breathe in the odor from the litter when changing - the old and the new (dust, etc.). Hope this helps!

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