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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, again, it's been a while. As you might have guessed, I'm pregnant and was going to clean out my goo cage yesterday when my hubby stopped me and asked me to make sure it was okay. You know, you're not allowed to change cat litter boxes when you're pregnant (which I'm more than happy about).

Well, we lost a baby last year (of course, not related to this at all), but now we're both on high alert and don't want to take any chances with this one, so I wanted to see if my well educated degu friends had any idea? Of course, just like the litter box, I'm not going to be all that sad to be relieved of the cage cleaning responsibility. :rolleyes:

5,265 Posts
Actually, it's the ammonia in the cat urine is what is dangerous to women while they are pregnant... I'm not sure what the ammonia level in degu's is... if your sketchy and no one else replies, i'd avoid it to be safe ;)

467 Posts
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that can cause birth defects. That's why pregnant women are encouraged to avoid cleaning the litter box. Though you certainly don't have to get rid of your cat, and, if you take the correct precautions, pregnant women can safely clean the litter box.

I'm sure ammonia isn't good for any of us, but the specific worry about pregnant women and litter boxes is the Toxoplasma protozoa. What many folks don't know though, is that you can get toxoplasmosis in other ways too.

Here are a few links with info about toxoplasmosis, and how to avoid it:

This first one is from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) here in the US.

Excerpt from link:

Do I have to give up my cat if I'm pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant?
No. You should follow these helpful tips to reduce your risk of environmental exposure to Toxoplasma.
• Avoid changing cat litter if possible. If no one else can perform the task, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards.
• Change the litter box daily. The Toxoplasma parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in a cat's feces.
• Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food, not raw or undercooked meats.
• Keep cats indoors.
• Avoid stray cats, especially kittens. Do not get a new cat while you are pregnant.
• Keep outdoor sandboxes covered.
• Wear gloves when gardening and during contact with soil or sand because it might be contaminated with cat feces that contain Toxoplasma. Wash hands thoroughly after gardening or contact with soil or sand.

Toxoplasmosis in Pregnancy

How can I avoid toxoplasma during pregnancy?
Here are some tips to help you avoid exposure to toxoplasma during your pregnancy:
• Do not allow your cat to go outside your home where it may come into contact with toxoplasma. If possible, have someone else take care of your cat while you are pregnant.
• Have another family member change the cat litter box and then disinfect it with boiling water for 5 minutes.
• If you must handle the chore of changing the litter box, wear rubber gloves to avoid contact with the litter and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
• Use work gloves when gardening and wash your hands afterwards. Cover children's sandboxes when not in use (cats like to use them as litter boxes).
• Control flies and cockroaches as much as possible. They can spread contaminated soil or cat feces onto food.
• Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat (or poultry) and unwashed fruits and vegetables.
• Wash your hands thoroughly before you eat and after handling raw meat, soil, sand or cats.
• Avoid rubbing your eyes or face when preparing food, and wipe the counter clean afterwards.
• Avoid eating raw eggs and drinking unpasteurized milk.

The Facts About Pregnancy and Cat Litter

Next, toxoplasmosis.

Because toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects in children, pregnant women sometimes assume that they must get rid of their cat. This is entirely unnecessary, as a few simple measures will thoroughly safeguard against catching the disease, especially from your cat. Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a parasite that can infect your cat if she eats prey already harboring the parasite or comes into contact with contaminated soil. Toxoplasmosis is rare among indoor-only cats.

Note that cats who contract toxoplasmosis do not always show symptoms. To prevent getting infected with the disease, whenever you scoop or clean the litter box, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands immediately afterward. Even better, get a friend or adult member of the family to take over litter box maintenance while Mom is pregnant.

Eating raw or undercooked meat is the most common way that humans contract toxoplasmosis. If you eat meat, wash off all surfaces and utensils that touched raw meat, and don't prepare meat and raw foods like salads on the same cutting board. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.

If you garden, wear gloves when working in the soil. The toxoplasmosis parasite lives in the dirt, so also wash your hands well after gardening. Many people naturally acquire an immunity to toxoplasmosis, and will not pass it on to their unborn child. Your doctor can test to see if you are in this group.
I have read reports that Degus can be infected with the Toxoplasma protozoa, but then again, I think just about any warm-blooded mammal can be infected with the protozoa.

Here is some general information I found about Toxoplasmosis from the American Veterinary Medical Association:


What You Should Know About Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a microscopic parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. It is not a new disease, having first been discovered in 1908. Since its discovery, toxoplasmosis has been found in virtually all warm-blooded animals including most pets, livestock, and human beings. Nearly one-third of all adults in the U.S. and in Europe have antibodies to Toxoplasma, which means they have been exposed to this parasite.

Pigs, sheep, goats, and poultry are sources of meat commonly infected with Toxoplasma. Toxoplasma in meat can be killed by cooking at 152ºF (66ºC) or higher or freezing for a day in a household freezer. Of all the infected animals tested, only cats are the perfect hosts for the production of the infectious and resistant Toxoplasma oocysts. The oocyst, released from the intestine of cats in their feces, is very hardy and can survive sleet, freezing, and even several months of extreme heat and dehydration. Moreover, oocysts can be carried long distances by wind and water. Thus the threat of toxoplasmosis can be greatly reduced when Toxoplasma oocysts are destroyed.

To prevent exposure to Toxoplasma:

Follow these steps, especially during pregnancy, to prevent exposure to Toxoplasma:

Change litter daily before any Toxoplasma oocysts can "ripen" and become infectious (Stage F). Dispose of used litter safely, preferably in a sealed plastic bag. If pregnant, avoid changing the litter box if possible (or use rubber gloves).

Wash vegetables thoroughly before eating, especially those grown in backyard gardens. Boil water from ponds or streams before drinking when camping or hiking.

Cover sand boxes when not in use to discourage cats defecating in them.

Wash hands with soap and water after working with soil or after handling raw or undercooked meat.

Cutting boards, knives, and the sink and counters should be washed well after cutting meat.

When cooking, avoid tasting meat before it is fully cooked.

Cook meat thoroughly until the internal temperature reaches 152ºF (66ºC) in a conventional oven. Microwaving is not a sure way to kill Toxoplasma in meat.

So, if I understand that correctly, any animal can be infected with the parasite, but cats are the main ones who shed the eggs in their feces, and therefore run the risk of infecting humans. And only cats who go outside would be at risk for becoming infected themselves.

I don't know if this helps or not! I think as far as Degus go, you are safe. Because most likely your Goos are inside only, therefore reducing the likelihood they'd get the paraiste. But, if you feel better, you could wear gloves, and change the litter out daily in their cage.

I hope this helps a little?

467 Posts
Just wanted to add that, in researching it further, I found this reassuring information from Purdue's Small Animal Disease Diagnostic 2003 Newsletter:

(read the whole article here: )

Cats are the only species able to complete the coccidian life cycle of T. gondii in the intestinal tract. After cats ingest bradyzoites (that are encysted in tissues of prey animals) intestinal epithelial cells are infected and several rounds of asexual replication occur followed by the sexual cycle. Sporulated oocysts are passed in the feces; at this stage they are non-infectious. Sporozoites develop in the oocysts after one to five days of exposure to oxygen in conjunction with appropriate environmental temperatures and humidity.

Toxoplasmosis can be spread by ingestion of encysted bradyzoites in tissue, ingestion of food or water contaminated with feces that contain sporulated oocysts, or transplacental transmission. Cats are the key animal species in the epidemiology of Toxoplasma gondii because they are the only hosts that excrete the infective, environmentally resistant oocysts in their feces.
So, unfortunately for you, it is totally safe for you to continue cleaning your Degus' cage while you're pregnant. Cats are the only ones to shed the infective eggs in their feces.

But, if the cage is too heavy for you to lift...Well you might be able to work something out there with your hubby! ;) lol

18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you all for your responses. All the research you guys did! I didn't expect that - I had planned on looking it all up myself. I was just doing a quick check to see if anyone new offhand.

It is definitely the risk of toxoplasmosis, not the ammonia, that's the worry. Of course, the ammonia is gross and inhaling a lot of it, not good. . .but to clean out their cage, not that bad.

That said, I may just fib to the hubby and tell him I can't (cause it's hard for me to reach with this belly, too!) and get out of it for at least a few months. :eek:)

Thanks again!! I love this board!!

Super Soaker Snot Ball Shooter
6,703 Posts
I asked my doc if it was okay to clean out the guinea pig cage during my pregnancy. She said just to be on the safe side I should wear a mask and gloves and to wash my hands really well after I'm done. Even though I'm pretty sure it's safe to clean the cage and I feel a bit silly wearing the mask, I figure it's better to be safe than sorry.
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