Should I try to re-home my cat while I am pregnant? Vet Joe Inglis explains

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on May 24, 2014 in Rat News | Subscribe

Joe Inglis Vet Joe Inglis answers your questions each week

My son has a pet rat that is nearly four years old. He’s always been very healthy but recently we noticed a lump on his side. It has now grown very large and seems to be causing him some discomfort and getting in the way when he walks. If we take him to the vets, will they just advise us to have him put down or would they be able to remove the lump? Charles, Loughborough

Lumps are relatively common in pet rats, which are quite prone to developing tumours as they get older. However, in my experience, although the lumps can be fast-growing and cause problems by impeding movement as you have found with your rat, in many cases  it is possible to remove them because they are often well circumscribed and loosely attached to the underlying tissues. I have removed many large masses from pet rats and they have generally done very well afterwards.

Apart from the surgery itself, the major risk involved is the anaesthetic. Smaller animals have a higher risk of anaesthetic complications because of the impact of small-dose variations on their systems and the problem of heat loss, which is proportionally much more significant in smaller animals than in larger ones.

However, most modern veterinary surgeries are well equipped to minimise these risks and the benefits of surgery often outweigh the risks, so I would definitely recommend taking him to your vets to have the lump examined and surgery performed if your vet feels it is appropriate.

I have just found out that I am pregnant and I’m worried about the risk of infections from my cat. I’ve heard that being around cats while pregnant can cause birth defects. Can you tell me what the risks are and whether I should try to re-home my cat while I am pregnant? Natalie, Sheffield

The association between cats and birth defects in people relates to a parasite called toxoplasma, which can be passed from cats to people through contact with feline faeces. Infection with the parasite is surprisingly common, with up to  30 per cent of the British population and around half of all cats thought to have been exposed to toxoplasma at some point in their lives.

Infection is often symptomless in people or causes mild flu-like symptoms but it can also lead to serious complications, including birth defects and stillbirth in pregnant women, and encephalitis in people with weak immune systems.

These conditions are very uncommon and, although cats are major carriers of the parasite, human disease is very rarely directly linked to cats. Various studies have shown no link between cat ownership or exposure to cats and the risk of toxoplasmosis. The most common form of transmission is actually through eating raw or under-cooked meat, especially goat, mutton and pork.

Having said that, it does make sense to minimise any risk when pregnant by having no contact with your cat’s litter tray, which should be emptied daily by someone else; washing your hands after contact with your cat, and making sure all meat is well cooked before eating. If you follow these precautions, there is no need to consider re-homing your cat. You can find out more about this issue on the Feline Advisory Bureau website at

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  • Photo of Charlie T

    Hygiene precautions should be followed whether pregnant or not.

    For heavens sake, people have survived for years and years without all this paranoia about more and more aspects of life. They never used to live in bubbles and got on just fine. Don’t get a pet at all if you’re going to treat it like a possession to be dumped when inconvenient.

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