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25 December 2018

UK mums are confused and concerned over the advice they receive about cats and pregnancy according to research conducted by Cats Protection.

The study, which surveyed over 1500 mothers or expectant mothers through the website www.netmums.com found that almost seven out of ten women admitted they were worried they could catch something from their pet while pregnant and 60 per cent were concerned that their cat could pass on an illness to their new baby.

The UK's leading cat welfare charity decided to conduct the study and launch the results because hundreds of pregnant women phone the charity's national helpline each year to ask about giving up their cat - something that Cats Protection says is unnecessary and is only adding to the UK's unwanted cat problem.

Maggie Roberts, Cats Protection's Director of Veterinary Services, said: "Our research shows that women are worrying about diseases such as toxoplasmosis** but they aren't being presented with accurate information. Studies show that cat owners are statistically no more likely to get toxoplasmosis than non-cat owners. The chance of contracting the disease from your cat is very small indeed - in fact you are more likely to get it from handling raw meat. Of course all cat owners should practise good hygiene routines especially hand washing after dealing with a litter tray and before handling food but that's just common sense."

The survey also revealed that over 35 per cent of pregnant women were being given the wrong advice about cats and pregnancy and over a quarter of women who received advice from a family member were told to get rid of their cat. Even more worrying, according to Maggie Roberts, over 16 per cent of respondents were advised to give up their cats by a non-qualified resource such as a blog or forum. "As a vet, I've noticed the rise in new media has led some pet owners to assume they are receiving expert knowledge from the internet when often quite the opposite is true," she warned. "People should always ensure they are taking advice from a reputable source."

Family doctor and parenting author Dr Carol Cooper also believes the misconceptions the survey revealed are cause for concern. " I'm horrified how many women give up a loved family pet because they wrongly believe they shouldn't have contact with cats during pregnancy. This can upset the whole family. As for the poor cat, it goes into care and charities like Cats Protection are stuck with finding new homes - not an easy task in this current climate."
Cats Protection has produced a leaflet on toxoplasmosis which can be downloaded from www.cats.org.uk/toxo . Anyone worried about owning a cat during pregnancy can call the charity's national helpline on 03000 12 12 12 for advice.

* A survey was carried out in February 2011 by Cats Protection and netmums.com. 1,586 women answered the survey who were either expecting their first child or were already mothers.

** Toxoplasmosis is caused by infection with Toxoplasma gondii (T.gondii) which is found in undercooked or raw meat, unpasteurised goat's milk, cat faeces and soil or cat litter contaminated with infected cat faeces. It is a common organism but when most people are infected with it they have no symptoms. This is because a healthy immune system is usually able to defend the body from the parasite and prevent it from causing illness.