It has long been hypothesized that it’s unhealthy for pregnant women to change the cat litter, but now more then ever, pregnant women have a reason to hand over the pooper-scooper responsibilities. A recent study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry claims that individuals exposed to the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which is carried by cats and farm animals, have a 24% greater risk of developing schizophrenia. The researchers that completed this study are planning further studies on whether treating the toxoplasma gondii infection can stop the progression of the schizophrenia.

This parasite can be found on undercooked meat and cat feces. It is thought that the parasite can live for up to a year in a damp shaded environment. If you are pregnant or you have children already, you may want to take the following precautions to avoid infection by the parasite, brought to you by veterinarian Dr. Ron Hines;

1) Keep cats out of garden soil, children’s sandboxes, flower beds and moist shady areas of the yard. .
2) Wear gloves when handling anything that may be contaminated with cat feces and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when there was any possibility contamination occurred.
3) Children’s sand boxes should be covered with a plastic or canvas tarpaulin when not being used.
4) Change your cat’s litter box frequently (daily) and let a non-pregnant member of the family do it.
5) Use boiling water and bleach to sanitize litter boxes. Remember, however, that bleach does not always kill the parasites.
6) Do not serve rare or undercooked meats or unpasteurized dairy products. Poorly cooked pork, lamb and venison possess the most risk.
7) Have the woman and the cat’s Toxoplasma antibody titer checked. Positive titer in a healthy animal or human indicates they can not contract the disease now because they did in the past. Antibody negative cats and women can still become infected during pregnancy and so are at greater risk.
8) Do not acquire new cats during human pregnancies.
9) Minimize the contact of pregnant women with cats.
10) Wear gloves when working in the garden or with soils.
11) Wash your hands frequently with soap and water throughout the day.



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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Feb 2008
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Bechdel, J. (2008). Individuals infected with certain parasite 24% more likely to develop schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 1, 2015, from


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