Q. I have a pet cat, and I know that exposure to the cat’s litter box is supposed to be dangerous during pregnancy because of the risk of toxoplasmosis. But should I stop emptying the litter box before I’m pregnant, while we’re trying to conceive?
A. You don’t have to avoid your cat—or even its litter box—when you’re trying to conceive. Most people who have cats have already been exposed to the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis and have already developed antibodies to it. But because infection during pregnancy poses a risk to the growing fetus—which can develop congenital anomalies if exposed to it—women are advised to be safe and avoid the litter box when they’re pregnant, since the parasite is passed through cat feces. There is a blood test you can have before you’re pregnant to determine whether or not you’ve already been exposed to toxoplasmosis (which would make you immune during pregnancy). And certainly once you’re pregnant you should let your obstetrician know about your pet so he can make recommendations.