Monday, September 26, 2011

A Talk about Toxo

Poor thing, she had no idea she'd be getting a blood test.

A month before I got pregnant, my husband and I rescued the little one in the picture above. We were driving home from dinner and had to stop at Walgreens for a few things. When we pulled up to the parking lot, we saw a girl holding the tiniest kitten we'd ever seen. As we walked by her, I commented on how cute the kitty was ( a mix of Siamese and Tabby). The girl told us that she had found the kitten in the bushes of her apartment complex and was trying to find a home for her.

My husband and I had never seriously talked about getting a kitten ( even though I grew up with a cat), especially since we were trying for a baby and I had read all the hype about cats and pregnant women ( apparently, they don't mesh).
But one look at her little blue eyes, and we were both hooked.

In hindsight, she has prepared us for a baby more than we ever thought she would. When we first brought her home, she was so tiny she could fit into my hand, and needed to be bottle fed every three hours. ( Seeing my husband wake up at 3 am to go bottle feed a kitten assured me that I won't be solely in charge of middle of the night feedings when the baby arrives).
We also needed to make sure she was pooping ( gross), and we actually did a triumphant dance when she finally had her first blow out.

And speaking of kitten poop, that's actually the topic of this post. See, cats get a bad rep with pregnant women because their feces can carry toxoplasmosis, a parasite which is no-bueno for baby in utero.

When I found out I was pregnant a month after bringing the stray kitten home, I freaked out (as I tend to do a lot). A google search actually accentuated my fears, because pregnant women are advised not to get kittens, and especially not stray ones, who were abandoned in the bushes of some random apartment complex.

Before dropping her off at the local shelter, I called the vet to ask him about Toxo. He assured me that in 35 years of practice, he'd never encountered a cat with the parasite. To reassure me even more, he told me that we can test the kitten for Toxo and if she did have it, he could board her for the 6 weeks it takes for the bug to get out of her system.

$150 dollars, and a big needle in my kitty's neck, assured me that out little furry friend was not a carrier of Toxoplasmosis. So the kitten got to stay.

Even if you don't want to get your cat tested, here are some facts about Toxoplasmosis:

1) It is rare, but pregnant women should still be cautious. You can also contract the parasite from raw meat or undercooked meat. Make sure those steaks are well-done ( sigh) and that you wash your hands with anti bacterial soap after touching raw meat. It's also a good idea to use separate cutting boards for meat and veggies, and make sure to sterilize and/or disinfect any surfaces that come in contact with raw meat.

2) If you had a cat, don't freak out. The main issue with cats is that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii can live in their digestive system and lay eggs. The eggs are released into the cat's feces, and from there, you'd have to ingest the feces to contract the parasite. Now, I know no one is eating cat poop, but you should still take the following precautions-
-- have someone else clean the litter box.
-- make sure the litter box is cleaned every day ( those eggs need gestation time in the poop, so if you get rid of them ASAP they won't have time to fester).
--- if you must clean the litter box wear gloves and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.
--- wash your hands after touching the cat
-- try to keep your cat indoors- it'll be a lot less likely to contract the parasite if it is indoors. The only way a cat can get toxo is by eating an animal that has it. So if your kitty is an outdoor cat, be careful that it is not killing birds or other small animals.
-- Don't feed your cat raw meat. Stick to real cat food.

3) wear gloves when gardening, as sometimes outdoor kitties use your garden as a litter box, unbeknownst to you.

4) if you have a sand box, keep it covered when your child is not playing in it- sandboxes are ideal restrooms for outside cats, so make sure yours is safe for you and your kiddies. Also, avoid public sandboxes during your pregnancy.

For more information on Toxoplasmosis, click here and here

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