If you’re headed down the surrogacy path, either as a gestational surrogate or intended parent, chances are your home has at least one animal in it too. Roughly 68% of households have pets, with dogs and cats being the most popular additions, each living in more than 30% of homes. Because June is National Adopt a Cat Month, you’re also likely to see lots of messages this month enticing you to bring one home. It’s a cause worth mentioning, as more than 3.4 million cats enter shelters every year and many never find a home at all, let alone a forever home. That said, you may have questions regarding the safety of cats during surrogacy, and we’ll address the most common issues below.
Will Keeping Cats During Surrogacy Cause Birth Defects?
Many people believe that the presence of a cat in the home with a baby on the way is a recipe for disaster. They point to an illness known as toxoplasmosis, which pregnant women can transmit to the babies they carry. Although this only happens in around 3,000 cases per year and only a handful ever have issues, there is the potential for miscarriage and birth defects. That said, most experts agree there’s no need to get rid of a cat due to toxoplasmosis worries, but to understand why, you need to understand the real root of toxoplasmosis and how it’s transmitted.
Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is an organism that can infect any mammal. It’s often carried by rodents and other pests. Cats sometimes eat infected critters and then subsequently become infected as well. When they do, their litter box business is also infectious until the cat’s immune system recovers. The box could be infectious starting 1-5 days after the cat is exposed, but most clear the infection within a week or two. It’s because of this that doctors sometimes suggest that women not clean litter boxes while pregnant. Failing that, it’s recommended that the box get a daily scoop to catch the material before it becomes an issue, to wear gloves, and to wash one’s hands well after scooping. This alone is enough to ensure the litter box is not a problem.
That said, most cases don’t come from cat boxes. They come from the individual eating undercooked infected meat or from doing tasks outdoors, like gardening, in soil that a cat has done his business in. This means that women who wash their hands after doing work outdoors and who cook their meat well have very little risk of contracting toxoplasmosis. In addition to this, people who have had toxoplasmosis have lifetime immunity afterward, so if you’re a surrogate who loves cats and has always had one, chances are you’re immune now. A physician can actually perform a test to see if you have the antibodies for it or can test the cat to see if it’s a concern.
Will Keeping Cats During Surrogacy Cause Breathing Problems for the Baby?
There are two main concerns people have when it comes to breathing and having cats during surrogacy. The first is that cats climb on top of babies and suffocate them. This obviously is not a concern in a surrogate’s home because the baby isn’t born yet, but intended parents bringing a little one home to a feline family member may take comfort in knowing that it’s an old wives’ tale. There aren’t any real recorded incidents where this has happened.
A second common concern is that babies who are exposed to pets in utero will later go on to develop asthma or allergies. Thankfully, the vast majority of studies indicate that this is untrue. In fact, current research suggests that, unless a baby is in a high-risk group (has a genetic link to pet allergies), he or she is less likely to develop allergies and asthma later in life if exposed to pets while in the womb. In other words, keeping a cat around could actually be good for the little one!
Begin Your Surrogacy Journey with SPS
At SPS, we understand your concerns. Not only was Surrogate Parenting Services founded by a surrogate, but we have helped hundreds of families grow since we opened our doors. We’ll answer your most pressing questions, ensure you’re matched with your ideal surrogate or intended parents, and guide you through each step along the way. If you’re considering becoming a surrogate, check out the info and guidelines, then complete the application when you’re ready. We also have volumes of information about our surrogacy services for intended parents available online, though if you’re considering growing your family with the help of an agency, you may also call us at (949) 397-6855 to learn more.