Published by PETA.

On a recent episode of a TV talk show—which shall go unnamed—a doctor advised a woman who was planning to become pregnant to avoid contact with her three cats because of the risk of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can spread through cats’ feces and cause birth defects.

I’m always one for the “better safe than sorry” route, but it’s simply not necessary (or fair!) to ignore and avoid—or worse, abandon—your beloved feline friends when there’s a baby on the way. For one, indoor cats are extremely unlikely to carry toxoplasmosis, and second, even if they were infected, pretty much the only way that you could catch the parasite would be to actually touch the cats’ feces and then touch your mouth or eat before washing your hands. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to be sifting through my darlings’ litterboxes with my bare hands anytime soon! That’s what scoopers are for, right?

Seriously, though, if you’re expecting and your doc tells you that your cat has to go, you should consider getting rid of your obstetrician—not your cat! Cats can only contract Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) in a couple of ways: by eating raw meat or by hunting infected birds, mice, or other animals. Infected cats only—ahem—shed potentially infective “oocysts” in their feces for about two to three weeks (after which time, they develop immunity to the parasite). And since oocysts in feces don’t become infective until one to five days later, cleaning the litterbox daily—which needs to happen anyway, to keep cat happy—will ensure that there isn’t anything icky hanging around.

For a healthy baby and happy feline, follow these simple tips:

  • Keep cats indoors (this is vital for cats’ safety—whether you’re pregnant or not).
  • Never feed cats raw or undercooked meat.
  • Wear gloves while scooping the litterbox and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. Better yet, enlist your spouse, partner, friend, or neighbor to handle litterbox duty until the baby arrives (I would take full advantage of this, if I were you!)
  • Clean cats’ litterboxes daily.
  • Wear gloves while gardening or working in the soil and thoroughly wash hands afterward—in case stray cats use your garden as a litterbox. • Thoroughly wash uncooked vegetables and fruit.
  • Go vegetarian, if you haven’t already, because the most common way that humans contract toxoplasmosis isn’t from cats but by eating raw or undercooked meat! So basically, if you’re a responsible cat guardian and you use a little common sense, you have nothing to worry about! But if you’re still not sure, don’t take my word for it—check out what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say.

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