At shelters, cats are sometimes dropped off because the owner is pregnant. These people often are not very well informed and know just that there is "some disease that pregnant women can get from cats," so they get rid of the cat. However, even though the disease is dangerous to the unborn baby, a few common sense precautions can prevent transmission.
The disease is called toxoplasmosis, which is caused by a protozoan called Toxoplasma gondii that a cat can pass in its feces, and it is dangerous the child the pregnant woman is carrying. A cat can get the protozoan if it eats an infected bird or rodent, so indoor cats rarely are affected. If a human handles the cat’s feces by cleaning a litterbox or gardening in soil where a cat has eliminated and then ingests the feces or soil, he or she may become infected by the parasite. If the person is a pregnant woman, this infection can then be passed to the fetus and cause serious neurological damage to the baby.
If you are pregnant, be sure to talk to your doctor and your veterinarian about toxoplasmosis. Your (human) doctor can run a blood test for toxoplasmosis to determine if you have antibodies that would make you immune to the disease. If you discover that you are at risk, ideally you should have someone else take over litter box duty for 9 months and avoid working in soil unless you are wearing gloves. If no one else is available to take over the litterbox chore, just wear rubber gloves while cleaning the litter box and afterwards wash your hand thoroughly.
Every pregnant woman must take special care of herself and avoid risks during her pregnancy for any number of reasons. But you don’t have to choose between your baby and your cat. If you want to continue to have the companionship of your favorite feline during your pregnancy and afterward, just take a couple more precautions and everyone will be happy.