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I'm already aware of this question concerning cat litter and pregnancy, and fully intend to take responsibility for cleaning our cats' litter boxes. I am however more concerned about the additional risks of having cats with a pregnant wife.

  • If my wife is pregnant, she may need to spend her days lying down on our couch - and with our second bedroom set aside to become a nursery, where will we keep the cats?
  • If we do let our cats roam about, how do I prevent them from jumping on my wife's pregnant belly?
  • Additionally, how can I keep a fussy cat from potentially scratching my wife's hands?
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    What is the concern about her hands? Oct 26 '20 at 19:21
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    If it was me, I'd first want to establish whether my wife is in fact pregnant.
    – Strawberry
    Oct 27 '20 at 10:23
  • @AzorAhai--hehim Mostly - a husband's probably overly-concerned nature of wanting to know if there's any concern to be had.
    – Zibbobz
    Oct 27 '20 at 12:37
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    @Strawberry Funny, because I know she's not pregnant right now, and I would prefer to know how to handle our cats around her before she is pregnant so I can prepare, not after the fact so that I'm unprepared.
    – Zibbobz
    Oct 27 '20 at 12:38
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    Also note the reverse is true; you need to think about how you're going to protect your cats from your wife, and, much more importantly, any children you may have. And vice versa. Until they're two or so, children can't be trusted around cats or dogs; my younger daughter would pick up my cat and slam her to the floor. Normally, cats will learn to avoid small children, but this was a very, very old cat. I had to keep them physically separated. Oct 27 '20 at 15:19
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+400

First of all, please calm down. Your question sounds as if any interaction with your cats would potentially endanger the life of your unborn child, but that is not the case.

It's not the cat itself that poses a danger during pregnancy, but an infection called "toxoplasmosis" that is caused by "Toxoplasma gondii" parasites. This infection can cause severe developmental damages in the baby's eyes and brain, but only if the mother is infected for the first time in her life during pregnancy.

Screening

There are very good blood screenings available that test whether or not the mother was ever infected with toxoplasmosis. If that test is positive, it means that the baby is completely protected by the mother's immune system. Please ask your doctor for such a blood test.

If the test is negative, there is a risk of infecting the unborn child if the mother is infected during the pregnancy. Be aware of the symptoms of toxoplasmosis and call your doctor when you notice them. Acute toxoplasmosis can be treated in the mother and the unborn child, which prevents complications in the child.

Read more on Wikipedia, Mayo Clinic, NHS and CDC.

Avoid infectious material

To infect a human with toxoplasmosis, you need:

  1. An infected rodent or other small animal
  2. A cat that eats the infected animal
  3. The infected cat dropping feces
  4. A human coming into contact with those feces approximately 1 day after they have been dropped.

A second way of infection is eating undercooked meat or shellfish. In some cases unpasteurized milk from infected animals also contains the parasites, so avoid unpasteurized milk, and soft cheeses that can often be made from raw milk (feta, brie, camembert, etc). She will likely be avoiding these foods anyway, as unpasteurized milk is not recommended for pregnant women due to the risk of listeriosis.

The best way to avoid infection is to avoid cat feces. It's great that you clean out the litter box instead of your wife, but you should also do that at least once every day and always wash your hands afterwards. The Toxoplasma parasites only become infectious 1 - 5 days after leaving the cat's body, so make sure to clean them up before that.

Your wife should also avoid touching feral cats and sand or soil that a feral cat might have used as a toilet (no garden work for her). Make sure all fruits and vegetables that touched the ground are washed and cooked well.

Next, try to avoid an infection in your cats. Cats cannot contract toxoplasmosis out of thin air, they must eat an infected rodent or other small animal. If you keep your cats indoors all the time, the risk for that is extremely low. You should also feed your cats commercial dry or wet food instead of raw meat.

Don't Panic!

The pregnancy of your wife will bring many changes and new experiences into your life. You will face some difficulties, but there are always professional people around you who can help you. Please don't stress yourself more than necessary by fearing for your child any time one of your cats touches your wife.

Several studies found that cat ownership does not strongly increase the risk of a T. gondii infection in pregnant women.

Even your cat jumping onto the belly of your wife poses no risk at all for the baby. The belly is not a glass ball that might shatter, it is a very efficient safety capsule with integrated shock absorbents for the baby. A direct pounce by an animal up to 40 pounds / 18 kg is still considered safe.
It needs a direct, violent impact to the belly (like in a car accident, a hit by an adult or a direct pounce by an animal over 40 pounds / 18 kg) to damage the baby. This guideline applies to the last third of pregnancy, when the belly is very big and therefore more vulnerable to impacts. In the earlier stages of pregnancy, the risk of injury and miscarriage is even smaller, but there are no objective numbers available.

The real danger here is a sudden impact. If a cat decides to lay on top of the belly, it's ok as long as the mother doesn't feel uncomfortable.

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    Just to add to this. My wife has given birth to our 2 children, with 2 cats around all the time (4 year old cats with our son, 7 year old cats with our daughter). Everyone was fine. Oct 26 '20 at 8:36
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    This question was largely about the last paragraph of this answer - since I already cite a previous question that goes into toxoplasmosis - but the thorough go-through of it a second time is still appreciated, as well as the rest of the answer.
    – Zibbobz
    Oct 26 '20 at 12:35
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    "you should also do that at least once every day and always wash your hands afterwards" Worth noting that this should be true regardless of whether there is someone pregnant in the house or not!!
    – corsiKa
    Oct 26 '20 at 17:26
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    @spikey_richie Anecdotal evidence of something turning out okay is not a good way to prove that something is safe. People have survived falling from planes without a parachute - that doesn't mean it's a good idea.
    – Rob
    Oct 27 '20 at 0:22
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    I'll add that you can have the cats tested for toxoplasmosis as well. If they aren't infected, and don't go outside, the chance of them being infected during the pregnancy is very low, assuming there aren't mice inside the house. Your vet can do a blood test to determine if they're infected. Oct 27 '20 at 15:13
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If my wife is pregnant, she may need to spend her days lying down on our couch - and with our second bedroom set aside to become a nursery, where will we keep the cats?

Why can the cats not be around your wife?

If we do let our cats roam about, how do I prevent them from jumping on my wife's pregnant belly?

You don't, your wife does. Once they've been pushed off a few times, they'll get the message. It's not a threat to the baby though, it's just uncomfortable for your wife (unless it's over 40 lbs/20kg). It would generally pose a bigger danger as a trip hazard.

Additionally, how can I keep a fussy cat from potentially scratching my wife's hands?

This has no bearing on pregnancy - it's a general issue with cat ownership, surely? If she wants to get the cat off her without touching it though, keeping a water mister to hand is the simple solution. A quick squirt will discourage most cats from staying where they are.

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    "It's not a threat to the baby though, it's just uncomfortable for your wife." Do you have any citations to back up this assertion? I'm sure that someone's studied how much force a pregnant woman's stomach can take without injury to the baby.
    – nick012000
    Oct 27 '20 at 5:40
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    @nick012000 I'm sure that someone hasn't studied it in depth, on account of that being fundamentally unethical! I did find this link though. They reckon to be concerned about pets over 40lbs; so unless you've got a Maine Coon, you're probably OK. And as that article says, the main risk is tripping over the cat (150-200lbs of human landing on pregnant belly) and not the cat jumping on her.
    – Graham
    Oct 27 '20 at 9:46
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I think everything about toxoplasmosis has been overly covered but in the interim a comment about spraying or misting a cat to stop a behavior was added. This sort of behavior by humans isn't acceptable anymore according to feline behaviorists. https://felinebehaviorsolutions.com/stop-spraying-cats-with-water/ Also, concerned about your wife being scratched by the cat, is it that you are afraid of cat scratch fever or does the cat always scratch your wife and she just doesn't like it?

Per Why does my cat lash out when I stroke her? on YourCat.co.uk:

Research has found that most cats prefer being petted around the head and neck area. With these cats, staying away from their no-go areas will ensure you don't get scratched.

"The latest research suggests that cats can be very stressed by our affectionate behaviour." Dr. Daniela Ramos, a Brazilian vet who is researching what triggers stress in cats, explains: "We noticed from previous research that human factors influenced quite a lot of the stress levels in cats. Many cat owners are very demanding in terms of touching, hugging, putting on the lap and kissing their cats."

"Most cats are not inclined to that, so they are stressed by such attitudes. The ones that simply dislike it commonly just escape from their owners. The ones that tolerate it, allow it but dislike it."

The result of Daniela's research was physical evidence of cats becoming stressed.

We can also avoid getting scratched if we learn to look out for signs of stress such as ears pointing backwards instead of forward, and for the twitching then lashing tail. You may also notice a 'mini freeze' when the cat is absolutely still for a second or two. If you see these signs, stop petting immediately - your cat has had enough.

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    Downvoted for poor citations and plagiarism from sources; please clean up this answer to better cite quotes from sources and distinguish them from your own commentary, and better address the concerns about scratching.
    – Allison C
    Jul 7 at 19:37
  • I cited everything I put up, and there is no plagiarism, most of it came from a site I belong to and the rest was cited.
    – Blueapple
    Jul 7 at 21:16
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    @Blueapple I have edited your post to format the text copied from those websites as blockquotes, to make it clear what was your own text and what was copied. In general, answers that are largely text copied from other websites are often downvoted.
    – Harry V.
    Jul 8 at 0:35
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    Welcome! I struggle with your post not because of the large portion of cited text, but because it’s not quite what the Stack Exchange system considers an answer: The question has a clear problem, and should get answers focusing on that and not on tangential details that came up in other posts. Each answer should primarily be a standalone answer to the question. This is one of the basic differences between Stack Exchange and most web forums. Please take a moment to read How to Answer and consider an edit to your post.
    – Stephie
    Jul 8 at 5:15
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    @blueapple Sorry, I don’t know what I’ve said that is not true, but I am happy to be corrected.
    – Harry V.
    Aug 7 at 4:44

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