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Climate of Confused Cat Advice Concerns Expectant Mums

31 December 2015
Climate of Confused Cat Advice Concerns Expectant Mums UK mums are confused and concerned over the advice they receive about cats and pregnancy, according to research conducted by Cats Protection

The study which surveyed over over 1,500 mothers or expectant mothers through the website netmums.com, found that almost seven out of ten women worried they could catch something from their pet while pregnant and 60 per cent worried that their cat could pass on an illness to their new baby

The UK's leading cat welfare charity decided to conduct the study because hundreds of pregnant women phone the charity's national helpline each year to ask about giving up their cat - something that Cats Protection says is unnecessary and is only adding to the UK's unwanted cat problem

Maggie Roberts, Cats Protection's Director of Veterinary Services, said, "Our research shows that women are worrying about diseases such as Toxoplasmosis but they aren't being presented with accurate information. Studies show that cat owners are no more likely to get Toxoplasmosis than non-cat owners. The chances of contracting the disease from your cat is very small indeed - in fact you are more likely to get it from handling raw meat. Of course all cat owners should practise good hygeine routines, especially hand washing after dealing with a litter tray and before handling food, but that's just common sense"

The study also revealed that over 35 per cent of pregnant women were being given the wrong advice about cats and pregnancy and over a quarter of women who received advice from a family member were told to get rid of their cat. Even more worrying, according to Maggie Roberts, Over 16 per cent of respondents were advised to give up their cats by a non-qualified resource such as a blog or a forum. "As a vet, I've noticed the rise in new media has led some pet owners to assume they  are receiving expert knowledge from the internet when often quite the opposite is true," she warned, "People should always ensure they are taking advice from a reputable source"

Family doctor and parenting author Dr Carol Cooper also believes the misconceptions the survey revealed are cause for concern. "I'm horrified how many women give up a loved family pet because they wrongly believe they shouldn't have contact with cats during pregnancy. This can upset the whole family. As for the poor cat, it goes into care and charities like Cats Protection are stuck with finding new homes -  not an easy task in this current climate"

In light of the findings, Cats Protection is keen to reassure all parents to be that, by following a few simple steps, it is safe to keep your cat while welcoming new additions to your family

The advice includes:

  • Get someone else to change your cat's litter tray if you can, and if you can't, wear gl;oves and wash your hands carefully after changing the box
  • Change cat litter daily as T.gondii, which causes Toxoplasmosis, is infectious between one and five days after the cat defecates
  • Do not feed your cat raw meat
  • Wash your hands after contact with stray cats and kittens
  • Keep outdoor sandboxes covered
  • Wear gloves when gardening in case a cat has toileted there

To support its recommendations, Cats Protection has produced a UTube video which aims to allay the fears surrounding Toxoplasmosis for mums to be. It can be downloaded at www.cats.org.uk/toxo  Anyone worried about owning a cat during pregnancy can call the branch helpline on 0151 355 9813 for advice

1. The survey was carried out in February 2011 by Cats Protection and netmums.com. 1,586 women answered the survey who were either expecting their first child or already mothers.  

2. Toxoplasmosis is caused by infection with Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) which is found in undercooked or raw meat, unpasteurised goat’s milk, cat faeces and soil or cat litter contaminated with infected cat faeces. It is a common organism but when most people are infected with it they have no symptoms. This is because a healthy immune system is usually able to defend the body from the parasite and prevent it from causing illness.