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Why shouldn't I change cat litter during pregnancy?

Cat litter and cat poo 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 a few months before you get pregnant, the infection can:

How to reduce your risk of toxoplasmosis from cat poo

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

  • not emptying cat litter trays – if you cannot 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 poo
  • wearing gloves when gardening (even if you do not have a cat) in case the soil is contaminated with cat poo
  • 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, unpasteurised goat's milk, and unwashed fruit and vegetables. Sheep can also carry the parasite.

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

Find out more about foods to avoid in pregnancy.

When to get medical advice

Most people infected with toxoplasmosis do not have any symptoms and do not know they're infected.

Pregnant women are not 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: 15 January 2019
Next review due: 15 January 2022