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Concerns about Pets and Pregnancy?

“Is it true that pregnant women shouldn’t clean out cats’ litter boxes?”

“I’ve heard that pregnant women should stay away from chicken coops.”

“What about other pets during pregnancy?”

If your pregnancy was unplanned, you may be seeking answers to questions like these. These concerns about pets and pregnancy might increase the complexity of the challenges you’re facing as you weigh your options– especially if you love cats or have chickens in your back yard.

We understand there are no frivolous or unimportant questions when you’re pregnant. In this article we will share basic information for your concerns about pets and pregnancy. More than that, we at Avenue Women’s Center are here to assist you with the many other questions you’ll encounter as you navigate the unanticipated path ahead. For over thirty-five years, we have been the first step for women in the Chicagoland area facing an unintended pregnancy. From a free medical-grade pregnancy test to a private, confidential consultation with one of our experienced client advocates, we are committed to serve and support you through this journey. Many of our services are available at no cost to you. Please contact us today and allow us to serve you.

Now, on to those questions you’ve raised about pets and pregnancy. Although the risks are small they are sufficiently significant that certain common sense precautions need to be taken. Some animals can carry infectious agents that can be communicated to humans.

Pregnancy and Cats

Of particular concern is the agent for toxoplasmosis in domestic cats. The agent is a parasite and the disease is normally mild—both in cats and in humans—often without noticeable symptoms. However, if a pregnant woman is infected with the parasite the fetus can possibly be adversely affected. Possible effects (though typically rare) may include:

  • Hearing problems
  • Vision problems
  • Learning disabilities
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth

This certainly doesn’t mean you must get rid of your cat. Rather, there are some simple safety measures you can utilize.

Infected cats excrete the parasite in their feces; pregnant women with pet cats should assure that the litter box is cleaned thoroughly and regularly and, hopefully, by some other person. If a pregnant woman must clean the litter herself, she should wear gloves and wash her hands thoroughly afterwards.

Pregnancy and Chickens, Reptiles, Etc.

Of course, cats are not the only domestic animals pregnant women may encounter—and some other animals can be carriers of diseases that may not affect the fetus but can cause serious disease in the mother if she were to become infected. Paramount among these diseases are the paratyphoid fevers, caused by close relatives of the organism that causes typhoid in humans, Salmonella typhi. Among the domestic animals that can become carriers of these Salmonella are the following:

  • Poultry
  • Pet birds
  • Rodents
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians

Paratyphoid infections in humans cause conditions that are much less severe than full-blown typhoid fever. Although uncommon during pregnancy in the United States, even these milder conditions are sufficiently distressing that pregnant women should exercise caution when dealing with domestic animals that might carry the infecting agent.

If you have chickens or pet birds, it is best to find a friend to clean the brooder, coop or cage. Do the same if there are pet rodents (hamsters, mice, etc.), pet turtles, lizards, or other amphibians or reptiles in the house. Again, if you must handle potentially exposed materials or pet environments, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands completely when you are finished. (You probably would have done that anyway!) Any temporary inconvenience may be well worth the effort.

Unplanned Pregnancy

We hope this information has helped you with your concerns about pets and pregnancy. At this point, please let us remind you that unplanned pregnancies, by their nature, include circumstances that aren’t everything you may have hoped they would be. Having served thousands of women, we understand that you may have regrets or fears in many areas – including how you’ve been handling a litter box or chicken coop. Please do not let yourself be driven by fear. Reach out for professional care. Allow your physician to hear your medical concerns and provide you with specific advice for your unique situation. Receiving tailored medical advice from a compassionate physician is better than trying to assess risk alone with the internet.

Once your concerns about pets and pregnancy are resolved, you may still be facing important decisions about your pregnancy. Are there other factors that indicate abortion may be your best option? Are there issues you personally want to resolve before moving forward? Your situation is unique, as are your questions and concerns. At Avenue Women’s Center, every one of our clients is met with respect and compassionate care. If you are in Chicagoland, please reach out to us today by call, text, email or chat. It will be our honor to work with you.


  • March of Dimes. (2014, April). Caring for Pets When You’re Pregnant. Retrieved from:
  • The BabyCenter. (2015, January). Is it true that pregnant women should avoid cats? Retrieved from:
  • My Pet Chicken. Are there any concerns I should have when keeping or caring for chickens while pregnant? Retrieved from:
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), PubMed Central (PMC); Obstetric Medicine. (2009, December). Typhoid Fever during Pregnancy. Retrieved from:
  • March of Dimes. (2012, February). Toxoplasmosis. Retrieved from:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, April). Salmonella Infection. Retrieved from:

Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.

The information provided here is general in nature.  It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center.  If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.