Why shouldn't I change cat litter during pregnancy?

Cat litter and cat faeces can contain a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis infection. Although it's very rare, if you get toxoplasmosis for the first time when you're pregnant or up to three months before you conceive, the infection can:

How to reduce your risk of toxoplasmosis from cat faeces

If you're pregnant, it's important to take measures to avoid toxoplasmosis infection by:

  • not emptying cat litter trays – if you can't get somebody else to do it, wear disposable rubber gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards
  • changing your cat's litter tray daily – it should also be thoroughly cleaned every day using hot water
  • washing your hands thoroughly if you come into contact with cat faeces
  • wearing gloves when gardening – even if you don't have a cat – in case the soil is contaminated with cat faeces
  • washing your hands and gloves thoroughly after gardening or handling soil
  • washing your hands thoroughly after handling cats and avoiding close contact with sick cats

Other precautions against toxoplasmosis

The parasite that causes toxoplasmosis can also be found in undercooked and raw meat and unpasteurised goat's milk. Sheep can also carry the parasite.

Read more about how you can reduce your risk of getting toxoplasmosis.

For information about other foods to avoid, see Which foods should I avoid during pregnancy?

When to get medical advice

Most people infected with toxoplasmosis don't have any symptoms and don't know they're infected.

Pregnant women aren't routinely screened for toxoplasmosis in the UK. But if you're concerned about your risk of toxoplasmosis, talk to your midwife or GP about the possibility of having a blood test to check for the infection.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 05/05/2016

Next review due: 05/05/2018