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April 18, 2008

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Cats, Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy

Many well meaning people have told me that once I get pregnant I will (1) have to stop cleaning the litter box and (2) possibly get rid of my cats.

Neither need to happen nor are going to happen.  First of all, it would not work with our lives and the fact K travels Monday-Thursday and second of all, these concerns about toxoplasmosis don’t really apply for women with INDOOR CATS. 

Read on…..

If you’re expecting a baby, you may have heard of toxoplasmosis because it can cause serious birth defects. A woman who acquires toxoplasmosis during pregnancy can transmit the infection to her unborn child. And a congenital toxoplasmosis infection in utero can lead to miscarriage or an array of malformations at birth. Because one of the ways to become infected is through contact with the infected feces of cats, many pregnant women try to lower their risk of acquiring toxoplasmosis by giving their cat away or putting the cat outside.

Thankfully, you can easily avoid contracting toxoplasmosis from cat feces without giving up your beloved feline “baby.” Cats acquire toxoplasmosis from eating contaminated raw meat, birds, mice, or soil. While cats are the only species of animal to shed the infectious stage in their feces, other animals can disseminate toxoplasmosis if their infected meat is eaten without proper cooking.

Likelihood of Contracting Toxoplasmosis

Because it’s difficult for cats to transmit toxoplasmosis directly to their caregivers, a pregnant woman is generally unlikely to contract the disease from her pet cat. Several factors keep the chance of such transmission low.

First of all, only cats who ingest tissue cysts acquire infection. Within the feline population, this would be limited to outdoor cats who hunt and eat rodents, as well as cats who are fed raw meat by their owners. In addition, only after a cat is first exposed to T. gondii does he typically excrete oocysts, and he does so for only two weeks. An outdoor hunting cat is often exposed to the disease as a kitten and is, therefore, less likely to transmit the infection as he ages.

Secondly, because oocysts become infective only after one to five days, exposure to the disease is unlikely as long as the cat’s litter box is changed daily.

Finally, since oocysts are transmitted by ingestion, in order to contract toxoplasmosis, a woman would have to make contact with contaminated feces in the litter box and then, without washing her hands, touch her mouth or otherwise transmit the contaminated fecal matter to her digestive system.

Reducing Your Risk of Toxoplasmosis

Even though it is unlikely that a woman will contract toxoplasmosis from her cat, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution. The following recommendations will help cat owners expecting a child to reduce their risk of contracting toxoplasmosis.

  • Avoid undercooked meat.
  • Wash all uncooked vegetables thoroughly.
  • Be certain to wash all cutting boards and utensils that may have come in contact with meat before using them to prepare other foods.
  • Wear gloves when working in soil. If gloves are not worn, hands need to be washed thoroughly following soil contact.
  • Ask a spouse, friend, or neighbor to help out with litter box duties while you’re pregnant.
  • If you don’t have help to keep the litter box clean, wear rubber gloves when changing the litter and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.
  • Change your cat’s litter on a daily basis.

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120 Lbs. of Kitty Litter

So, what do you do the morning of your IUI and the last chance at some heavy lifting?
Stock up on kitty litter!  If you live in New York City and you don’t have a car, that might look something like this:

Those of you with cars, do you know what kind of looks people give you rolling a granny cart down the street full of kitty litter?  They look at you with judgement and as if you are possibly that crazy cat lady.  This cart weighs more than ME.  The 13 blocks there is easy–it’s empty.  But coming back 13 blocks navigating people, dogs, dog crap, kids, stroller, uneven pavement, curbs–it’s hard.  How hard?  Well, I sent K to do it by herself once and instead of carefully navigating the course back, she decided to get a running start and ‘jump’ the curb.  Not smart.  She broke the cart, hurt herself and got a lot of stares.  When I get pregnant she’ll be left to this task again and out on the streets–watch out!!!

We are crazy about the cats.  We have three now but had four up until a few years ago.

This is Boo Boo Bunny aka Bunny aka Buns aka Bun Bun.  I adopted him from the SPCA in Dallas, Texas.  He has traveled with me through five states and 12 apartments.

He is 16 years old and was the love of my life before K came along.  Some days he still is:)
He has his own pillow on the bed and curls up in my armpit every night to fall asleep.  Bunny has a meow only a mother could love.

Here is Savina, aka Savvy, Weena, Weena Wumps, Wumpus and Wumpa, and Wumpalotapuss, also 16 years old.  I adopted her 6 months after I got BooBoo because he used to give me the most pathetic looks as I left the house every morning.  I mistakenly thought he was lonely and brought him home a friend.  He was not lonely–at least not for another feline friend–only lonely for me.  They pretty much hate each other to this day, though in their old age there is less hissing and growling than there used to be.  She purrs like a Harley and because her preferred sleep slot is on your head (taking up most of the pillow) it forces us to wear ear plugs every night. 
Cadeau (Ka-Dough) du Tigre, it means gift of the Tiger in French.  He is also affectionately called Monster most days.  I found him while we were living in Jersey City.  One day standing in my living room 4 floors up I heard ‘kitten in distress’ and like the crazy cat lady that I am I bounded down the stairs and out onto the streets to find my baby kitten.  He was across the street, trapped between the front door and the apartment foyer door and what I found was a sick, scared, near death teeny tiny thing.  He fit in the palm of my hand.  Somebody probably tossed him out when he got sick.  We took him to the vet, spent an enormous amount of money and quarantined him for the next month.  The vet said if we hadn’t brought him in he would’ve died within 24-48 hours.  K and Cadeau slept in the front bedroom until we knew he was safe for the other cats to be around.  Savvy took to him quickly, but it’s taken Bunny 3 years just to let him lay down beside him without getting up in a huff.
You might say Bunny is a little spoiled….

And that is what scares me.  All of my cats are terribly spoiled and although I’m not even pregnant, I’ve already been on forums that talk about how to introduce your cats and your new baby.  These cats have the run of the house and our bed–it is not going to be easy.  But I think we’ll manage.  I’ve already figured out how to make a tent over the crib with our mosquito net to keep the cats out–that’s a bonus, the baby won’t get malaria either!
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Mission # 2 Activated (formerly known as Swim Swimmers Swim)

Ready to be Spermified

IUI #2 was this afternoon at 2pm. When I went in yesterday my estrogen had peaked and I was clearly already surging so I didn’t have to do the trigger shot.
I had an U/S yesterday and there was one nice looking follice at 18.5mm, so by the time of the IUI maybe it had reached 20mm.
The timing has me a little freaked. I think that last month K and I truly did see it as almost a ‘practice run’ and we weren’t expecting too much. This month feels more real and thus has me scared of the very low percentages of a natural cycle IUI at my ‘advanced age’ (38) and the short lifespan of frozen sperm (6-12 hours VS 3 days for the fresh stuff).
The timing is so tight and crucial, it’s a wonder anyone ever gets pregnant!

My acupuncturist wants me to start temping again and the funny thing is, I’d started doing it the night before myself.
Going to the RE and Big Fertility Center can make you forget that you are still the best advocate for what your body is doing and I realized that I need to have some power over that.
The blood work and the ultrasounds are great, but I want to temp as well.
Next month–if I’m not pregnant, I’ll be getting a speculum to check out my cervix and see what’s going on in there. If you don’t know what I mean and it’s just TMI…you can read all about it here.

Overall, it went rather smoothly. My nurse had a bit more trouble threading the catheter in this time, but it wasn’t painful, just uncomfortable and took a little longer. She likes to talk to me while she’s going about the business which is great as it might take your mind off it, but at one point, I had to say, “I’m going to stop talking and just breathe now, OK?”

Afterwards, I texted K, but she was in a meeting and couldn’t call me right back. So, I put on my iPod and listened to a few songs by Elisa before heading to the office. K and I were able to talk on my way to work and she is being very supportive.
It’s hard for both of us that she’s not around much to be a part of this on a day to day level.
But as she travels for work Monday-Thursday, it’s difficult.

We have a busy weekend ahead with a silent rave in Union Square Friday night (this is about 2000 people dancing around with their iPods on!), a farewell BBQ for my German friend on her apartment terrace tomorrow afternoon/evening, and a baby christening of K’s nephew on Sunday in Princeton.
I have something planned almost every single night next week–even if it’s just yoga or pilates as it makes the TWW go by much, much faster!