My cat is an outdoors pooer, but has an inside litterbox for emergencies or desperate nighttime poos (I keep him in at night because native birds, cars etc). This litterbox hardly ever gets used, and just sits there for long periods of time looking sad and alone.
This morning at 05:30, my cat was DESPERATE to go outside; he was meowing in my face, jumping around the room, etc. But it was 05:30 and still dark outside, so I told him to fuck off (knowing he had the litterbox), and eventually he shut up and I could go back to sleep (is this animal cruelty? I don’t think so…).
When I let him out when I woke up, I checked and he had left a big poo in the box. So, WITHOUT THINKING, I PICKED UP THE LITTER SCOOP AND PUT THE POO IN THE BIN. I did wash my hands immediately afterwards (because: gross), but then I thought “OH SHIT TOXOPLASMOSIS”.
When I panic-googled (always the most useful thing to do lol), The Internet reminded me that pregnant women should definitely never ever ever even go near a litterbox, and if they absolutely must (but don’t), to wear disposable gloves and maybe a mask too and immediately wash your hands afterwards. ONE site said to wear gloves AND/OR immediately wash your hands, so that was nice. But most said both.
However, panic-googling also told me that chances of infection are decreased if:
- your cat is not a kitten, as they are less likely to be infected for the first time as they get older (my cat is 10 years old and has been outside his whole life)
- you wash your hands straight away, before touching your mouth (who would think touching your mouth is a good idea after dealing with poo anyway!)
- you deal with the poo within a day (apparently the cysts are not infectious for 24 h or something)
- you are immune (obviously) from having caught it before (no idea if I have or not, but seeing as I have been around cats my whole life I guess there is a chance?)
Also, that most infection happens from handling raw meat anyway (oops I touched raw chicken last night too, but I did wash my hands and everything else that had touched the meat straight away because I am not gross and don’t want salmonella – wasn’t even THINKING about toxoplasmosis though).
So: chances are very good that I haven’t caught it. But I was reading about the things that can happen if you do get it (small risk) and then pass it on to your baby (another, further, small risk), especially in the first trimester. E.g. miscarriage, stillbirth, baby is blind, baby has severe brain disorders, etc. One official site said to consider abortion if you know you are infected in the first trimester! Most just say that treatment with antibiotics (which is weird cos it is a parasite, not a bacterium) can reduce the risk of giving it to your baby.
I rang FA, thinking they could reassure me, and the nurse was all “lol don’t do that” and when I said I lived alone and thus had to be the one to clean the litterbox, sounded perturbed and a little surprised (SURELY dealing with single mothers by choice as often as they do they must have come across a cat lady before), and said she would talk to the doctor there today and get back to me. None of which was very reassuring. But then, it sounded like she was getting her info from the same website I had looked at earlier, so yeah – chances are she wasn’t a toxoplasmosis expert.
She also said I could ask my GP to test me for antibodies against the parasite, which I might do.
So anyway. Panic spiral, but logic tells me I am fine. So I will get over it eventually. My dad is coming to stay today – I might ask him if he would mind cleaning out the litterbox for me so it will at least be really fresh for a while (lol “Hi Dad, did you have a nice trip? Hey, would you mind doing this really gross job for me?” as he steps through the door).
EDITED TO ADD:
The nurse rang back to say I should go to my GP and get tested for antibodies to the parasite this week. She reckons it is quite a complicated process. I wonder if my GP will actually think it is worth it or not – she is pretty laid back about most things. But yeah – gonna book an appointment.
Also, not gonna happen again: