Pregnancy should be a blissful life event for cat-moms. You are looking forward to the day your own baby arrives and that first meeting between your baby and your cat and the two growing up together making a lifetime of wonderful memories along the way. But what happens when one day while you’re pregnant you discover that your pet cat has worms? For a lot of women this can be a very scary experience filled with questions – Can I catch worms from my cat? Is my cat having worms harmful to me and my baby? What should I do? In the height of anxiety, not a few cats have been rehomed, surrendered to shelters, or sadly outright abandoned because of fear for the safety of mom and baby. But is this really necessary?
Can Pregnant Women Have Pet Cats?
The simple answer is yes. It is perfectly all right to have a cat when you are pregnant. You do not have to get rid of your cat. Stay calm, know the facts and do not make hasty life-changing decisions based on idle fear.
Can I Catch Worms From My Cat?
Yes, some feline worms can be transferred to humans including roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms.
Cats infected with roundworms shed worm eggs in their feces. People can get roundworms by accidentally swallowing the eggs or dirt that has been contaminated with cat feces containing the infectious eggs. Once in the human body the larvae can migrate through various internal organs (Visceral Larva Migrans) with the most common organ being the eye (Ocular Larva Migrans).
Humans can get cat hookworms by having close skin contact with moist, larvae contaminated soil. These hookworm larvae can survive for many months in the soil and they can penetrate into human skin where they migrate through the different layers of the skin (Cutaneous Larva Migrans) causing itching and red, swollen tracts.
Some species of tapeworm from cats can get transferred to by accidental swallowing of an infected flea, although this is a rare occurrence. Adult tapeworms do not develop in humans, instead, the larvae may produce a cyst inside the body, most commonly on the liver, lungs and/or brain.
Is My Cat Having Worms Harmful to Me and My Baby?
In general, no it is not because with proper hygiene it is highly unlikely for you to pick up worms from your cat. The cat can be easily treated for the worms and preventive measures put in place so that your cat does not get infected with any more worms and this eliminates the risk to exposure for you and your baby.
In case the cat worms do get access into the human body, they often do not complete their life cycle in humans. This means they do not mature normally when they get inside humans so they cannot multiply inside the body and die. Their migratory patterns in the body does not have a predilection for the placenta. But still they are a cause for concern for the mother because of their parasitic nature, and as mentioned above, some tapeworms may form cysts.
What Can I Do To Protect Myself and My Baby?
For pregnant women, the following suggestions help to lessen the chances of cat worm transmission to humans:
Practice basic hygiene always. Frequently wash your hands with soap and water, especially before cooking food and eating. This removes the eggs and soil on the hands preventing accidental swallowing of the eggs or the egg-contaminated soil.
- Wash hands immediately after handling the cat to prevent accidental swallowing of worm eggs and infected fleas, if there are any on your cat.
Reduce personal exposure to cat feces. Have another person in the household clean the cat litterboxes and handle the cat poo while you are pregnant. If there is no one else to do these, use hand gloves.
- If the cat has not yet been treated for worms and fleas; and placed on a preventive program, isolate them in the meantime or at least do not allow them on the furniture, bed, kitchen countertops and dining tables.
Thoroughly clean kitchen countertops and dining tables, including all equipment and utensils to be used, before preparing and serving meals.
- Clean the house and the yard to lessen environmental contamination. Vacuum floors and furniture to physically remove eggs and fleas. Some parasite eggs do not have protective coating so exposure to sunlight by airing out, washing with warm water and bleach and drying would be sufficient to destroy these eggs. Some eggs have a protective coating making them more resistant and they can be destroyed by the higher temperature of live steam.
- Do not place the cat’s litterbox in areas of the house where you most often use or stay. Avoid using dusty litter. Use covered litterboxes or those that have high sides to prevent scattering. Change litter frequently to remove stool before the eggs have the time to develop and become infectious.
- If your family has an outdoor sandbox for children, cover it to prevent feral cats from using it as litterbox.
The following measures, on the other hand, help ensure that worms in cats are eradicated and further infection prevented:
Take the cat to the veterinarian’s office for a fecalysis. The choice of medicine for treatment will depend on what kind of worm is present. Do not self-medicate your cat with over the counter deworming medicines because it might not be for the kind of worm your cat has and the dose may be incorrect.
- If you have more than one cat, have the others dewormed also and follow the veterinarian’s recommendation of a regular deworming schedule for your cats as a preventive measure.
Have a regular flea treatment and prevention program for your cat so that he will not get tapeworms from swallowing an infected flea while grooming himself.
- Keep cat indoors. This way will he will not be able to eat rodents that may have worm larvae in their tissue and other animal’s stool which may have worm eggs. If you take the cat outside, do not bring them to areas where there are feral cats.
- When you have to be gone for an extended period, consider hiring a pet sitter to take care of the cat at home rather than leave the cat in a boarding facility where they may come into contact with other cats that might have worms.
- When bringing a new cat into the house, isolate the newcomer first until he has seen the veterinarian, has been treated for worms and fleas and had vaccinations already.
- Tapeworm eggs in the environment can be eaten by rodents wherein the larvae will develop in the tissues. Rodent population control is as important as flea control.
- Sanitation is important. Clean areas where cat stays using the methods described in the previous section above.