Old wive’s tales used to warn about cats sucking the breath out of an innocent baby in the crib. And although this sounds bonkers to modern parents, expectant mothers may need to take certain precautions around their favorite fur babies. For instance, it’s a good idea to know how to test your cat for toxoplasmosis, so that you don’t have to fear your kitty for the duration of your pregnancy.
Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that reproduces only in felines, can cause rare but serious complications in pregnant women, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. And the results can be scary. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women who encounter toxoplasmosis for the first time may pass it on to their unborn child, leading to potential problems such as blindness, brain damage, or mental disabilities. So even though the risk of getting toxo is rare, it’s understandable if these potential complications kind of freak you out.
Fortunately, you don’t have to kick Mr. Pickles to the curb to keep your baby safe. As parasitologist and small animal extension veterinarian Allen Paul said on the MEOW Cat Rescue site, “there is no documented correlation between toxoplasmosis and cat ownership.” Dr. Paul further noted that people can only get toxoplasmosis by consuming raw or undercooked meat containing the parasite, or by coming into contact with the parasite’s eggs in cat feces. If you follow advice from the American Pregnancy Association and have someone else take on litter duty, avoid feeding raw meat to your cat, and keep Fluffy away from food preparation areas, chances are you’re good to go. But what happens if your kitty manages to get outside for long enough to catch a mouse? Can you get him tested just to be extra-safe?
If you suspect your cat has come into contact with the parasite, then a thorough checkup at your veterinarian's office is a good idea. You can describe your cat's potential symptoms — such as lethargy and loss of appetite — and your vet can perform routine lab tests to confirm presence of toxoplasmosis, as explained on PetMD. As further stated by PetMD, serological tests, which account for the amount of toxoplasma antigens in your cat's body, can help your vet determine whether the infection is active, dormant, recent, or long-term. While this battery of tests may feel a little labor-intensive for you and your cat alike, knowing with certainty that your kitty does not have an active infection can help you breathe easy.