Is having a cat a health risk to your unborn baby?
A friend said I’d be mad to keep my cat now I’m expecting a baby as the health risks are too great and the cat will hate the baby. Is this true?
Many women worry about the danger of getting toxoplasmosis from their cat while pregnant, because of risks to the baby. It can be passed from cat to human via the cat’s faeces, but the risk of infection is actually greater from not washing hands after gardening, or eating unwashed fruit and vegetables and undercooked meat. The risks with cats can be minimised by asking someone else to clean the litter tray, or by always wearing gloves for this task. Also keep cats off kitchen surfaces.
Before the baby arrives you can desensitise your cat to likely sounds by playing clips of a baby crying (available on the internet) starting at a low volume, then rewarding relaxed behaviour with treats, play or praise, and gradually increasing the volume to realistic levels. Cats feel secure when their home smells of them, but new baby kit may cover their familiar scents. Rub a cloth over your cat’s cheeks and under its chin, then rub this cloth on the new items to give them your cat’s scent, helping your cat to accept them.
Most children grow up to have wonderful relationships with their cats and there is much evidence suggesting that growing up with pets aids healthy child development, so I hope that this is the case for you. If you go to International Cat Care’s website you’ll find lots more information.
Dr Sarah Ellis (Feline Behaviour Specialist at the charity International Cat Care)