Friday, March 25, 2011

Scooping the cat box: Who's on deck?

Disclaimer: The following post contains information that might be controversial and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not medical advice or an opinion on what anyone else should do. It is simply the story of the decision we made.

We have some very exciting news to share! We are expecting a baby. Our due date is October 23rd, and we couldn't be happier.

When we learned the news, though, we had to ask ourselves a big, big question. Who will scoop the cat litter box? Carl is technically not supposed to deal with cat litter because of his suppressed immune system. Pregnant women are not supposed to go near soiled cat litter either. Talk about a dilemma.

By the way. This is our cat, Lucy (a.k.a. "The Looch). We adore her.

We left the cat box to rot for a few days while we mulled it over (totally gross, as I usually scoop it every single morning -- sorry, Lucy). I also did some research and learned a few things about why these guidelines are put in place for transplant recipients and mothers-to-be. Our decision: until the baby arrives, Carl is the official cat box scooper. He scoops it every day, wears gloves and quadruple washes his hands after the chore is complete. We don't anticipate any issues.

I want to emphasize that we didn't take this decision lightly. Carl's health is a big deal, and so is the health of our unborn baby. But the facts, in my opinion, indicate that this is OK. Here's our reasoning: the concern here is a parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis. For most folks, this infection doesn't cause serious complications, but if a woman is exposed early in her pregnancy it can cause stillbirth, miscarriage or serious health problems for babies who manage to survive the infection. For someone like Carl, flu-like symptoms can develop (usually not serious, but it is always more difficult for organ recipients to bounce back). However, we are not worried and believe that Carl's risk here is 0%. Here's why:

1) Indoor-only cats generally do not carry toxoplasmosis. Lucy is an indoor-only cat, and has been her entire life.

2) Carl grew up with outdoor cats, so there is a pretty good chance he has already been exposed to toxoplasmosis. If he's already been exposed, he's immune (according to my intensive research).

3) Cats catch toxoplasmosis by killing small creatures and by digging in manure and by getting into other nasty things out in nature. Lucy does not engage in these activities (we don't believe she's even capable of killing a mouse -- she's so gentle).

4) Toxoplasmosis is spread from cats to humans via feline fecal matter. However, the poop has to sit in the box for two days before the parasite becomes contagious. The solution? Scoop the box every day (something I'm in favor of anyway).

Just to be safe, we're going to have Lucy tested for the parasite next month when she goes in for her annual check up. On the off chance that she is a carrier, we'll adjust our plans. Honestly, though, we're not worried. Carl has already been scooping the box for several weeks, and he's fine.


Amanda said...

Congratulations on the news!!! What a blessing this is for the two of you. I couldn't wait to tell Chris your news!! :) Bless you both!!

Amy Tippins said...

If it makes you feel any better, I am an 18 year liver recipient and I have never had any issues with the kitty poo. I had a cat when I had my transplant and have 2 cats now and in younger days I did wear gloves when changing the box. In fact, it is such a small risk that my surgeon never mentioned it to me and he has been in my home over a dozen times. I finally heard that cat poop was a no-no when another patient mentioned it. So, he should be fine if he continue to go gloves and washing.

Amy Tippins said...

Congrats on the baby, btw!

Dawn said...

Thanks, Amanda and Amy! And also, Amy, thank you for the reassurance and sharing your experience with your cat. It definitely helps to hear good feedback.

Becca said...

This blog has been great to read and very uplifting. My fiance is having a rough time with his PSC right now. They found atypical cells in his bile duct (although a FISH test and tumor marker test was negative). We are now at Mayo clinic waiting to hear what they thing we should do next. I think the end result will be transplant but the question is will he need it 4 months from not or 10 years from now. He feels relatively fine right now except for pain and fatigue. It makes me feel hopeful to read this blog and know that you got through this. I am 25 and my fiance was 30. One of my concerns, along with many, was "would we be able to have a family." I see now that it is possible. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

kwittiegirl said...

Hi Dawn -- any news and updates on you guys?

Dawn said...

Hi -- Sorry I've been so delinquent. I've been busy with another project: I started working on that and this blog fell by the wayside. Everything is still going well for Carl. We're getting close to the 4-year anniversary of his transplant! Thanks for reading and keeping up with this blog, though. I do hope to update again soon!

Nathaniel said...

Aww! what a sweet kitty. :)