Pregnancy + Pets
Pregnancy + Pets
December 7, 2020

Pregnancy + Pets

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Pregnancy + Pets.
Pregnancy + Pets

If you’re a pet owner, you know that pets can feel like family. And if you’ve had your pet since before you got pregnant, then your fur-, feather- or scale-covered companion might feel like your first baby. So what happens when you’re preparing to bring a human baby into the mix?

You might hear about pet allergies worsening or your cat’s litter box being a no-go zone while you’re pregnant, but that doesn’t mean your pets have to find another home for nine months. We’ve gathered the most common worries pregnant pet owners have, along with advice on how to stay as safe and healthy as possible while caring for your animal loved ones.

Cleaning the Litter Box While Pregnant

Cleaning your cat’s litter box is never the most exciting chore—we totally get it if you’re looking for a reason to pass this chore off to someone else—and it’s probably the most common concern regarding pet ownership during pregnancy. The main thing pregnant people are usually worried about isn’t that it’ll trigger nausea (which it might), but that it puts you at risk of getting infected with toxoplasmosis.

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which is found in small animals, birds and contaminated raw meat and can cause muscle pain, fever and complications in pregnancies. It can also cause lasting eye or brain damage in newborns infected through the pregnancy. You likely don’t plan on consuming rodents or raw meat while pregnant, so why is toxoplasmosis something you should be aware of?

If you have an outdoor cat or an indoor cat who sometimes likes to roam around outdoors, there’s a good chance they’re regularly coming into contact with mice, birds and other small animals and, well, hunting them. Seen any “presents” left at your back door lately? Find someone else to handle kitty’s latest kill (with gloves on), because it might be infected with the Toxoplasma parasite.

As far as the litter box is concerned, all those hunts have to come out somewhere, and Toxoplasma can be transferred through your cat’s feces. The chances of your cat carrying the parasite and depositing it into their litter box are fairly low, but caution is still strongly advised.

To reduce your risk of infection, have someone else clean your cat’s litter box, preferably every day. If no one else is available, wear gloves and a dust mask to clean the litter box, and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water afterwards (and don’t touch your face before you wash your hands). Since the highest risk comes from your cat being outside, it’s worth it to consider bringing your cat indoors full-time to minimize or eliminate their interactions with potentially infected animals. Note: If your cat has only ever been indoors-only and you never feed them raw meat, they’re most likely not at risk of infection from the Toxoplasma parasite. Also, kittens and younger cats are at higher risk than mature cats.

If your cat prefers your flower beds over the litter box, or if you’ve got a neighbor cat who pays visits to your garden, make sure you wear gloves while gardening and wash your hands thoroughly once you’re done in the soil.

One last thing to note about toxoplasmosis: your cat’s poop actually doesn’t pose the greatest risk for infecting you. According to the CDC, you’re more likely to come into contact with Toxoplasma through raw meat, so always make sure your meat is thoroughly cooked before you eat it, and thoroughly wash any knives, cutting boards or other cooking utensils that touched the raw meat.

Dog Training While Pregnant

More of a dog person? While you won’t have to worry about how to clean up after your dog does their business, there are some things to consider for your pup during your pregnancy. Specifically, you want to make sure that Fido is well-mannered—no jumping, no biting or snapping—for when baby arrives. After all, your baby will be a new presence in your home, and if your dog reacts nervously around strangers, it’ll take some prep work to get them ready for the family’s new addition.

But it’s not just about preparing for baby. If your dog is a jumper, they’ll need to be taught not to jump on your pregnant belly or knock you down. This might mean training classes, and your veterinarian might be able to recommend some good ones for your dog’s specific needs.

Other Pets

If your pet is of the small, squeaky, caged variety, no need to worry—they don’t need to leave, either. While pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, mice and rats can carry a virus called LCMV (lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus), which can cause birth defects and miscarriage, you just need to make sure you handle them carefully.

Similarly, reptile friends like snakes, lizards and turtles can carry salmonella bacteria, which can cause miscarriage and preterm labor.

LCMV and salmonella infections can spread through bites, touching bodily fluids or inhaling dust from infected animals, so take these precautions:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after touching or handling your pet
  • Never let them near your face (sorry, that means no sweet guinea pig kisses for now)
  • Keep their cage away from your bedroom
  • Have someone else clean the cage. If you have to do it yourself, make sure to wear gloves and a dust mask, and don’t touch your face until after you’ve thoroughly washed your hands

Pet Vaccinations

No matter what kind of pet you have, you need to make sure they’re fully vaccinated. That’s good advice in general, but it’s especially important when you’re pregnant so your pet doesn’t spread any disease or illness to you and your fetus that could cause birth defects or miscarriage. Also, limit your exposure to unvaccinated animals, especially young animals like puppies and kittens (we know, we know, it’ll be nearly impossible to say no to adorable baby animals, but remember that they’re not protected against diseases like rabies, norovirus and salmonella until they’ve had their shots).

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Managing Pet Allergies While Pregnant

Have you felt like your allergy to pet dander has gotten worse since you became pregnant? Or maybe you were never allergic to your pet before, but now you seem to be sneezing when you snuggle them. It might not be all in your head. Some pregnant people experience worse allergies than normal, and some people even develop allergies for the first time while pregnant.

While pet allergies don’t pose any risk to your pregnancy or the birth of your baby, they can make you miserable. If your beloved pet seems to be the cause of your sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes or scratchy throat, keep pets out of your bedroom and be sure to talk to your doctor about pregnancy-safe options for allergy relief.

And speaking of pet allergies, studies have shown that exposing your fetus during pregnancy or your baby after they’re born to pet dander can lower their chances of experiencing pet allergies later on. So bring on the cute baby + puppy pics, because those pet snuggles may actually be beneficial to your infant.

Animals to Avoid During Pregnancy

Unfortunately, there are some animals that should be avoided during pregnancy. Namely, farm animals like sheep and cows that have recently given birth or are newborns are at greater risk of infection, which can spread to people if the animals are handled. Similarly, if you live on a farm, avoid birthing any farm animals while you’re pregnant.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and the Babylist Health Advisory Board.