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Home > Cats > Why Pregnant Women Should NOT Clean Litter Boxes: Vet Approved Facts & Risks

Why Pregnant Women Should NOT Clean Litter Boxes: Vet Approved Facts & Risks

black cat going out from a litter box

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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When you’re pregnant, you find there are many things you need to stay away from, like caffeine, meat that’s been undercooked, certain medications…and your cat’s litter box? Indeed, those who are pregnant should avoid cleaning out the litter box in their home if at all possible. It sounds a bit odd, but there’s actually a good reason for it!

What reason is that? Well, cat feces can be extremely dangerous for pregnant people. Here’s everything you need to know about why cat feces can be harmful during pregnancy and how to avoid it.


Why Is Cat Feces Dangerous to Those Who Are Pregnant?

The big concern when it comes to your cat’s litter box and your pregnancy is something called toxoplasmosis1. This parasitic infection can be passed to you via your cat’s feces and can then be passed on to your unborn child. Not all cats will carry this parasite, but it’s easy for them to become infected by eating the feces of another cat containing the parasite or from consuming meat that’s been contaminated with it.

While you may only experience symptoms similar to the flu if you get infected (or may not experience symptoms at all), your baby won’t fare as well2. Babies who get toxoplasmosis (particularly in the first few months of pregnancy) can end up with birth defects, like eye and brain damage3.

cat sitting in litter box
Image By: Mila Naumova, Shutterstock

If you’ve contracted toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, it can be treated, but you and your baby will then need to be monitored throughout your entire pregnancy and even after birth. And if you’re one who doesn’t experience any symptoms, you might not even know you have it, so you won’t realize your baby has it until after they are born.

The good news is that if you’ve had toxoplasmosis in the past, you should be immune, which can help protect your unborn baby. However, the best way to protect your child is by not cleaning the litter box at all.

Does This Mean I Have to Give Up My Cat?

a tabby cat lying on pregnant womans lap
Image By: Sunsetoned, Pexels

Absolutely not! Even if there’s no one around that can clean out the litter box for you, it doesn’t mean you need to give up your cat or temporarily rehome it. Instead, you’ll need to limit your risk of exposure to toxoplasmosis.

You can limit your risk by:
  • Wearing disposable gloves while cleaning out the litter box and thoroughly washing your hands after
  • Feeding your cat canned or dry cat food and no undercooked meat of any kind
  • Keeping the cat outside (weather and environment permitting)
  • Not getting a new cat while pregnant
  • Ensuring the litter box is cleaned every day (as the Toxoplasma parasite takes 1–5 days to become infectious)
  • Wearing gloves if you’re doing activities such as gardening because the soil you’re working in could be contaminated with cat feces, then washing hands thoroughly after


Final Thoughts

The possibility of contracting toxoplasmosis from your cat’s litter box during pregnancy is a genuine (and frightening) concern. Not only can you become infected, but so can your unborn child. If at all possible, pregnant people should avoid cleaning out their feline’s litter box to avoid this parasite.

If you’re unable to avoid this job, though, you can take several steps to minimize your chances of contracting toxoplasmosis. You can wear gloves while in contact with cat feces, wash hands thoroughly after, keep your pet indoors, and make sure to clean the litter box each day.

So, don’t feel you need to give up your beloved kitty! Just be very careful when around the litter box to avoid contamination.

Featured Image Credit: Litter Robot, Unsplash

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