Take care to avoid toxoplasmosis
Question: I'm pregnant, and my doctor warned me about cleaning my cats' litter box because of toxoplasmosis. What is it, and can it really harm my baby?
Answer: Toxoplasmosis is a rare and easily avoidable disease that can cause serious birth defects. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, you're more likely to contract the disease from your garden or what's inside your refrigerator than from your pet cat.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection from a microscopic parasite. The highest risk sources are uncooked meat, dirt, contaminated water and unwashed vegetables.
Indoor cats, fed commercial cat food, are less likely to be infected. Practicing basic personal hygiene, including thorough washing of hands before and after touching the pet or the litter box, reduces risk. Having someone else clean the litter box, as well as keeping your cat indoors and off the kitchen counters and dining table reduces the risk even further.
Q: Once I have my baby, what is the best way to introduce the new baby to my pets?
A: It's best to start before your baby is due. Encourage your cat to explore the baby's room to investigate the new furniture and smells.
When you come home, have someone else carry the baby into the house so that you can greet your pets. Then invite your pet to sit next to you and the baby.
Using soothing tones, positive encouragement and treats, reward positive interaction between your pet and the baby, and always supervise the encounters. Doing your best to maintain your pet's regular routines, including quality time each day, will help your pet welcome the new addition to your family.
The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
. Indicate "Pet Ohana" in the subject line. Or, write "Pet Ohana," Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., Honolulu 96826.