As the days begin to warm up a little at the shelter we already know that soon we will be inundated with pregnant animals and their offspring.
Many of you have never had a cat so it’s a good time to get some facts to you about cats in this column and dogs in another column.
If you do have a cat this information can also be useful to you and other people that you may know.
This column I write not only due to the facts I have found while researching, but it was my own personal experience.
It was a freezing March day back in Ohio as I remember. About six inches of new snow was on the ground and the wind was howling fiercely.
I had just finished my early shift at the hospital and lit a cozy fire in the fireplace at home. My new chubby cat Max and I curled up in our favorite chair for a short nap.
I wasn’t feeling well and Max didn’t seem to either. I had almost fainted at work again today, but nothing else seemed wrong.
Normally I had the energy and drive of a “race horse.” Lately I was feeling tired all of the time.
The day before my grandmother had finally convinced me to go to the doctor. My aunt had been diagnosed with leukemia and my cousin had a brain tumor.
Of course my grandmother just knew that I had one of the conditions also. She wanted me to be treated immediately so my life could be saved.
I kept telling myself that my grandmother contained a wealth of knowledge, as she was very old.
As I look back I know that I was 18 years old, my mother was 36 years old and my grandmother was 54?
Oh yes, my thought process about being “old” has changed tremendously over the years.
Max and I had just fallen asleep when the phone rang. It was the doctor’s office with the results of my blood test.
After listening to all of the things that I didn’t have, I heard the words “you are pregnant and the doctor would like to see you again in the next couple of weeks.”
Pregnant? I thought I was just tired. Relieved that I didn’t have leukemia or a brain tumor, I called my grandmother to come over to hear the results of my blood work.
I wanted to see her face as I told her that her “wealth of knowledge” had left out the possibility of being pregnant. I just knew that we would laugh together over this news.
Max and I were still in our cozy position when grandma arrived. She had a very worried look on her face as she waited for my words.
It was really hard to hold back my excitement. I knew how excited she was going to be, this was going to be her first great-grandchild. I was absolutely sure the baby was a girl.
My grandmother was more than excited. The tears rolled down her face as she hugged me tightly.
A shopping spree was on the agenda and what names had I chosen? Names? I had only known that I was pregnant for a half hour.
My husband was at work and he wouldn’t even know until his lunch break. This sweet little woman wanted names, how delightful she was.
What happened next was a total shock to me. My grandmother’s face instantly reflected an unexpected look of terror. What was wrong, what was she thinking?
Instantly she picked Max up from my lap and put him on the back porch and then all of his belongings. How strange, Max hadn’t done anything wrong at all.
My grandmother’s only words to me were, “you have a cat (no surprise, I’d had him for about a month by then) and you need to get rid of him right now!”
Get rid of Max? He was my new best friend; he’s my baby, why would I want to get rid of him?
Toxoplasmosis is what really caused the look of terror. I had never even heard of the word. Also back then I couldn’t jump on my computer and get the answers I needed.
My grandmother was thinking that she heard something about cats causing infections, birth defects and even possibly miscarriages to a pregnant woman and her fetus.
She couldn’t give me a lot of details on the subject. For some strange reason, others couldn’t either.
Many years ago the details of toxoplasmosis were always different no matter who you spoke with.
The general consensus was “to get rid of the cat.” He was no longer referred to as “Max” by others; he became the “cat.”
As any mother trying to protect an unborn child I made the difficult decision to give Max to my best friend Diana.
“Protect yourself and your unborn child” is what I continuously heard from everyone. I stayed stress due to the fact that I had to give up my friend.
I know that I drove Diana crazy always wanting to know how he was. I was devastated to say the least. My grandmother seemed happy though.
Over the years in my position at the Verde Valley Humane Society, I have learned new information about this disease.
“Not so” says the Humane Society of the United States. There are now facts proving that a pregnant woman doesn’t have to give up her cat if she uses caution.
It is highly recommended that a pregnant woman research the subject in its entirety. Talk with your gynecologist or obstetrician before making a decision you may regret.
The Humane Society of the United States recently contacted more than 31,000 physicians in the United States and provided them with information to help educate patients about the risks of toxoplasmosis.
“It is heartbreaking to hear that woman are still giving up their cats for fear of contracting toxoplasmosis.” Says Nancy Peterson, Issues Specialist with the HSUS. “That’s why we gathered the most accurate and up-to-date information and sent it to the nation’s OB/GYNs.”
It is also stated that it is extremely unlikely that an indoor cat will carry toxoplasmosis. Outdoor cats on the other hand have a slightly higher risk. Research says, “Keep your cat, and just use caution.”
A pregnant woman is more likely to contract the disease by eating contaminated raw or undercooked meat than from her feline friend.
Our “furry feline friends” can acquire toxoplasmosis from eating birds, mice, soil or very easily from contaminated raw meat.
It’s true that cats are the only species of animal that shed the infectious stage in their feces.
Did you realize that other animals could circulate toxoplasmosis if they consume infected meat that hasn’t been properly prepared?
What is toxoplasmosis gondii (T. gondii) exactly? It’s a protozoan organism that can infect all mammals. Mammals serve as intermediate hosts.
Once infected cats can’t typically get the disease again. During the first exposure is when a cat can spread infectious reproducing microorganisms.
These microorganisms are not immediately infective. It requires one to five days for them to incubate.
So how does a pregnant woman reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis? Simple, follow the recommendations below. Notice how many of them “don’t” involve your cat.
• Cook your meat well.
• Wash uncooked vegetables thoroughly.
• If you like to garden, wear gloves and wash your hands anytime you work with soil.
• Ask someone else to clean out the litter box while you wait for your new arrival.
• If the litter box “has” to be your chore, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when you are finished.
• Change the litter daily.
• Don’t always listen to grandmother without researching.
First, yes my precious baby was a girl. Kimberlie Dawn weighed in at a healthy seven pounds, six ounces with no infections or birth defects.
Second, remember I told you Max wasn’t feeling too well either? Of course there was also an explanation for that.
“Maddie” gave birth to a litter of four beautiful kittens about two weeks after I gave her to my friend.
Last, but not least, yes I got my precious Maddie back after the birth of our daughter.