6 Myths About Cats and Babies

The experts say that cats and babies can actually be friends.

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Cats may often seek out babies for body warmth and snuggles. By: mliu92

Myths about the coexistence of cats and babies have abounded for centuries.

I’ll confess that I, for one, was a little on edge in the past at the thought of a cat and a human infant even being in the same room.

But over the years, I’ve learned to separate the facts from the myths concerning cat/baby relationships.

Myth 1: Cats can tell when you’re pregnant.

Or is it a myth? According to Dr. Raymond Van Lienden, DVM, of The Animal Clinic of Clifton, Va., scents unique to pregnancy, although imperceptible to humans, can be detected by some animals — including cats.

Don’t Miss: Can Dogs Hear Babies in the Womb?

Myth 2: You have to get rid of your cat when you get pregnant because of the risk of toxoplasmosis.

Although toxoplasmosis is a risk for fetuses, women are more likely to contract it from handling raw meat or digging in the garden than from a cat. Protect yourself from cat-related exposure by (carefully) emptying the litter box at least once a day while wearing disposable gloves and washing your hands after cleaning.

More than 60 million Americans carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but their immune systems usually prevent illness. Cats are carriers of the parasite but are rarely affected by it — they usually shed it.

Don’t panic. As Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, writes in It’s a Cat’s World… You Just Live in It, “Despite what your M.D. may tell you, you don’t have to get rid of your cat just because you are pregnant.”

So, why do some couples ship their cats off to shelter as soon as they find out they’re expecting? A lot of it is pure ignorance, really. Some people still believe the cat has it out for the baby somehow — which brings us to our next myth about cats and babies…

Myth 3: Cats smother babies or suck air out of their lungs.

Most cats get along great with babies. By: rumpleteaser

Having always been told that babies were not safe around cats (because of the “milk scent” on infants’ bodies), I just about lost it one time when I saw a strange cat trying to break through a screened window to get to my baby. Grabbing my child, I called a neighbor for help. A trap was set, and the cat was caught that night.

But never again did I trust a cat around my baby.

And now, after my children are all grown, I learn that this myth is nothing more than an old wives’ tale stemming from the longtime belief that cats are symbols of evil. Most cats are just curious heat and comfort seekers. Curling up with an infant in a crib satisfies all of these needs.

If a cat presses up against the face of a bundled infant who doesn’t know to turn away on his own, this is a dire problem. Infant deaths by suffocation are most often attributed to pillows or a sleeping person accidentally smothering the infant as they sleep together.

Some cats “may become jealous and spray to cover up the scent of the baby,” according to Messy Beast blogger Sarah Hartwell. “You need to help [the cat] become more confident and less dependent upon you well before the birth,” she says.

You can ease your cat into the new routine before the baby arrives. Let the cat scope out the crib and other baby items.

You can also bring one of the newborn’s blankets back from the hospital and let the cat get used to the new scent …assuming that mother and child are in the hospital for more than 24 hours. Maternity stays aren’t what they used to be.

My recommendation? I’d keep your cat out of the nursery during napping or bedtime, just in case.

Don’t Miss: 7 Cat Myths and Superstitions — Debunked

Myth 4: If a cat hears a baby crying, he will climb into the crib to harm the baby.

Cats are curious and may feel a new baby’s cries are worth investigating. As mentioned above, babies give off warmth, and a cat may try to climb in and share it, but it’s extremely unlikely that the cat would harm the baby.

Of course, it’s not recommended that cats and babies sleep together. If you’re worried about this, place a net over the crib so your cat can’t snuggle in. Or replace the door to the baby’s room with a screen door, which allows the kitty to see and smell the baby without feeling completely left out.

Myth 5: Flea bites can kill a baby.

At worst, your infant may develop a rash.

Dr. Ann L. Huntington, DVM, of Suffield Veterinary Hospital, suggests eliminating any flea problems before your child is born.

Your veterinarian can treat your cat for any internal or external parasites, while you can treat your entire home.

Myth 6: Cats are not good with babies.

In fact, the opposite is generally true. When you bring a new baby home for the first time, let your cat sniff around the infant. Allowing the cat to look at, smell and even touch your newest family member will assure your cat he has nothing to fear.

This video says it all:

Praising your pet when he behaves well with the infant teaches him that you are all one happy family. When feeding the baby, give your cat a few treats too, or play a laser game so he’ll associate good things with the baby’s presence.

Cats will adapt beautifully as long as they know they still matter to you.

Set aside some time for your cat while the baby’s sleeping. And when people come to see the new arrival, make sure they “pay attention to the cat as well as the baby,” says Hartwell.

“The baby is part of his life too, and if he is made to feel part of the baby-raising activities he will be more accepting of the noisy intruder.”

With a few guidelines and proper supervision, baby and cat can develop a loving relationship, filling your life with many happy memories.

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You can help ease your cat’s transition to a baby in the home. By: Josh Ward

9 Ways to Prepare Your Cat for a New Baby

Welcoming a new baby into the home is a joyful time for parents, but it can also be confusing and stressful for your cat — who may not welcome the change to “normal” routine.

Here are some steps you can take to make things less traumatic for your pet.

1. Sounds and Smells

Help your cat to adjust to the changing situation via the sounds and smells that will be commonplace once the baby arrives.

Try using baby lotion and CDs of baby-related sounds. Rewards can be used to encourage positive associations with the introductions.

2. Schedule Changes

Cats are creatures of habit, and the chaos of a baby could easily leave your cat feeling hugely distressed and anxious.

Gradually adjusting to the schedule that will be in place once the baby arrives will help your cat feel more comfortable and give him more chances to adapt to the changes that will inevitably happen.

3. Playtime Frequency

In the run-up to the birth, you may be tempted to lavish your cat with attention and affection to compensate for the baby’s arrival. But in doing so, you risk causing further confusion and stress when this doesn’t continue after the baby comes home.

Instead, use the pregnancy period to gradually move playtime to times that will still be feasible so your cat won’t feel pushed out in favor of the baby.

4. Litter Box Blues

Try to strike a good balance when deciding where to place your cat’s litter box. It should be in a spot that will not be within reach for the baby — but at the same time, it shouldn’t be in a place that your cat is too reluctant to use.

5. Spay or Neuter

If your cat has not already been spayed or neutered, this would be a good time to have it done. As well as offering health benefits, spaying/neutering would likely make your cat calmer and less inclined to act aggressively.

6. Baby Room Barriers

Will your cat be banned from the baby’s room? A robust barrier such as a safety gate will prevent access without shutting your cat out altogether. He will still be able to see, hear and smell the baby without being able to interact.

7. Crib Access

If you don’t plan to prevent access to the baby’s room, you may be worried that your cat will try to sleep in the baby’s crib. Discourage this from the start by attaching double-sided sticky tape to the edges so that your cat is not so keen to access the crib. This will create a negative association with the crib.

8. Refuge Room

If you are expecting to receive guests after the baby comes home, set up a quiet room where your cat can seek sanctuary. This also be where your cat goes to get away from the baby if things become overwhelming. The room should contain food, water, a litter tray and a comfortable sleeping area.

Check in with your cat regularly while this room is being used and offer treats and affection. If he doesn’t want to come out, don’t force the issue — wait until he feels comfortable enough to venture out.

9. Escape Tower

Set up “perches” that your cat can use to escape from the baby. This can be as simple as cat trees or scratching posts with platforms. These should be suitably out of reach for a toddler in preparation for the baby learning to crawl.

* * *

Award-winning cat behaviors writer T.J. Banks contributed to this article on myths about cats and babies.

Gayle Hickman

View posts by Gayle Hickman
Gayle Hickman has been researching and writing about pet behaviors since 2011. In addition to Petful, her articles have appeared on Reader's Digest, Yahoo Shine and WebVet, to name a few.

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40 Comments

  1. Raymond LEcuyer
    September 14, 2014

    Cats ” DO ” Steal a babies breath ! .You are WRONG , WRONG ,WRONG ! .I have seen it myself ! .it is NOT a myth !

    Reply
    1. Michi
      September 23, 2014

      Troll…

      Reply
      1. Raymond LEcuyer
        September 26, 2014

        Troll ? ,what sense does that make ,, just schooling people about cats , they DO ‘ intentionally kill babies ! . This may be what S.I.D.S. is ,,a cat all along ! .I know, I know ,you are a cat lover but Again , I witnessed It

        Reply
        1. NoLemmings
          October 3, 2014

          What are your credentials? I run a rescue organization for felines. Have cared for over 100 at one time and have worked with hundreds of families WITH cats that have taken in many cats. Have dealt with organizations that research and study felines from around the world. Assuming something resembling what you assert did actually occur, I can assure you it was not the cat “stealing a babies breath”. The cat may have been comfortably lying close to the baby at worst. In any event, post the article to the News story on this event. I call nonsense. I suspect you suffer from Ailurophobia or have other motives for making such a post especially given the CAPS and exclamations. That or your post is a misguided attempt at humor.
          You probably also claim that ALL pit bulls are deadly and evil.
          Find another hobby. You fail even as an Internet Troll.

          Reply
          1. Raymond LEcuyer
            October 4, 2014

            I don’t need credentials , I seen it ! there was NO mistake . I snuck to the bedroom door to check on my napping infant son and looking thru the cracked door I saw the cat sitting on my sleeping babies chest with it nose and mouth aligned almost against my sons nose and mouth ,the cat was perfectly still and to my horror I could see the cats chest expanding and contracting very rapidly ! the cat was stealing his breath ! .it wasn’t to cuddle and it wasn’t for milk ! it was trying to kill him ! ,,Please,it is NOT an old wives tale ,its true ,,

            Reply
            1. harlie
              December 5, 2014

              Sweet heart the cat was sniffing. When my cats sniff me there chest does the same thing. Wasn’t stealing breath. And BTW my baby brother had colic and our cat jumped in the crib and laid on his tummy and guess what it made him feel better. And plenty of children die from SIDS without having cats around and parents do everything right. It just happens. I’m sorry but get a life

            2. Raymond LEcuyer
              December 5, 2014

              Again , there was NO mistake ! I know what I saw ! It was NOT sniffing .The cat was trying to kill my son . And it was intentionally sitting in the center of my son’s chest to make it hard to breath with that alone . With its mouth and nose aligned with my son’s mouth and nose and rapidly inhaling and exhaling ! Yes , I caught him .I wish I could show you what I saw , you would be scared.

            3. Tazandra
              January 4, 2015

              The ONLY thing I fear is the fact that you are a “father” …and responsible for the mental/physical health, wellbeing and raising of a human infant.
              Your delusional paranoia could cause so much damage to that baby, it’s absolutely horrifying.

            4. Raymond LEcuyer
              January 4, 2015

              You are right , I was responsible for my child , and I saved his life … Why are you putting a cat ahead of a child ? Why would I lie about this ? . I bet this is what S.I.D.S. is ! .cat lovers don’t want to believe cats could be bad … but I believe they are responsible for crib death.

            5. Jennifer MST
              December 15, 2014

              Absolutely I completely agree

  2. epiCham
    January 9, 2016

    Thank you.

    Reply
  3. The-Rob
    January 31, 2016

    Anyone who actually believes that a domestic cat can/would kill an infant obviously needs more/better education… And probably shouldn’t have the kid in the first place due to lack of common sense and poor decision making.
    Can’t fix stupid… Sad really

    Reply
    1. Raymond LEcuyer
      January 16, 2017

      too bad this is a year later , but you are the sad , stupid one ! Cats do suffocate babies , I witnessed it with my son ! who are you to say no ? they intentionally try to kill the baby , it sounds absurd , but again , I seen it ! I am suspecting this may be what S.I.D.S. is .

      Reply
      1. Hope
        May 26, 2017

        You sat around and let a cat suffocate your son? Obviously you are an unfit parent. Also SIDS isn’t something cats can cause many people who dont even own pets have had children die from SIDS. It is believed to be caused my an undiagnosed middle ear issue.

        Reply
      2. FireFly
        September 4, 2017

        Your usage of “I seen it”, one of my personal biggest grammatical pet peeves, and your clear lack understanding of what SIDS is, is enough to make me discount your anecdotal “evidence”.

        Reply
    2. Nightmare2 Rex2
      April 4, 2017

      or own a goaldfish yet alone a cat for that matter.

      Reply
  4. Brandy Danielle
    October 10, 2016

    I can’t get past the fact that they walk around in and scratch up their litter boxes then proceed to walk on every surface of your home. *shudders*
    My dog may poop outside, but he’s not allowed to walk around inside until I clean his feet and various other parts.
    And I think it’s just common sense to know that you shouldn’t leave an infant alone with animals. Yeah, yeah… your widdle Fluffywumpkins wouldn’t even hurt a fly… so what? Accidents happen. Cats are unpredictable, (you know as well as I do that they can flip the $#@! out for no reason at all), dogs don’t always know their own size or strength… and if your kid pulls an ear or bites a tail…
    I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t let a cat rub all over my baby, and I wouldn’t let a dog lick them in their face and I would only let them around my child in heavily supervised situations.
    My only dog bite came from our ten year old beagle, the sweetest, most gentle, loving and docile dog we have ever had. I was almost 5 and she and I were outside playing one day, and she got her foot caught in a grate and panicked. I wanted to help her because she was yelping and it scared me. I tried to pull her foot out of the hole and she turned around a clamped down on my arm.
    It wasn’t her fault. She was scared and in pain and my parents understood this. She lived to be 15 and passed away in her sleep. That was the one and only time she ever offered to bite or show aggression.
    My point is still that accidents can and do happen. You’re the adult. You’re responsible for taking care of your children and your pets to the best of your ability and I believe in erring on the side of caution.

    Reply
    1. Melissa Smith
      October 11, 2016

      Great perspective Brandy – very eloquently put. Thank you for posting!

      Reply
    2. Nightmare2 Rex2
      April 4, 2017

      and we wonder why modern humans immune systems are WEAK!

      Reply
    3. RHREESE
      May 31, 2017

      Do your research. A Cat has never attacked and killed an infant. You can’t even say that about little dogs. About cat litter. You put a rug down that cleans a cats paws.

      Reply
      1. Brandy Danielle
        June 10, 2017

        Uh, nowhere in my comment did I even *remotely* allude to a belief in homicidal felines. Nowhere. At all. Ever. Not even a little bit.

        What I DID assert, however, was that cats are undeniably unpredictable and that 5 out of their 6 ends are very pointy and potentially dangerous. That is a fact. No “research” needed, thankyouverymuch. (Besides, I have 30+ years of owning, raising, rescuing, and rehabilitating a regular menagerie of critters, from cats & dogs, to alligators & opossum. The best research is hands-on. Always.)

        However, you might benefit exponentially from brushing up on your reading comprehension skills… and perhaps take a peek at that biology book again, because unless you have a *magic* rug, it’s going to do absolutely zip, zero, nada, to clean ANYONE’S feet. It would be akin to using a dry cloth to wipe your cutting board after laying raw chicken on it. Just because it looks clean, doesn’t mean it IS clean. “Out of sight, out of mind” is just not how bacteria works.

        As for the rest of my comment, I still stand by the assertion that it’s dangerous, irresponsible, and just plain stupid to let an animal (any animal) get all up in your baby’s business, namely, their face. That should be a no-brainer, but alas…

        Reply
        1. Mr Liger West
          June 19, 2017

          Animals including humans are unpredictable. And yes i can predict my cats moves. I am unfamiliar with dogs and cannot predict them but i would not go as far as you did. Animals are special beings. I am so sorry but i cant get over that you most likely killed that cat out of ignorance. That poor poor poor cat.

          Reply
          1. Melissa Smith
            June 20, 2017

            I’m lost, did she say that she killed a cat?

            Reply
      2. panait ciprian
        August 2, 2017

        Actually cats killing infants do happen. It is usually seen as an accident but considering cats are one of few animals that kill out of pleasure I would not say is impossible

        Reply
        1. Melissa Smith
          August 3, 2017

          I would love statistics if you have them!

          Reply
        2. Raymond LEcuyer
          December 20, 2017

          Panait , I am surprised you agree , that is my assertion that they do kill for pleasure , not from Jealousy and not by accident . and yes I believe a Majority of S.I.D.S. cases may be from Cats ! . I Witnessed a Cat suffocating my son and no one believes me .

          Reply
          1. panait ciprian
            December 20, 2017

            I am sorry that no one believes you. But it is consistent with feline behavior. For instance lions kill the cubs of other males. About a majority of SIDS being from cats I did not research the issue enough to give an opinion. All I can say is that some SIDS cases are from cats . How many I cannot say without more data.

            Reply
            1. Raymond LEcuyer
              December 20, 2017

              Well , I tried to do some research about the connection to S.I.D.S. myself but most will not even consider the cat and think I am crazy . there is no data and you would have to visit each case individually to see if they indeed had a cat in the house . But this is no myth .

  5. Mr Liger West
    June 19, 2017

    I cant believe you were so ignorant to trap the cat and most likely gave it to a shelter where it was euthanized. All because you were scared. Hello cat is outside and baby inside. You have to be more scared of humans than a poor cat. I feel for the poor cat.

    Reply
  6. panait ciprian
    August 2, 2017

    You forgot that the hair thst a cat sheds all over is a danger to a human’s respiratory system. If it gets into the babie’s it can die without medical treatment. I am against letting a cat in your bedroom for any big length of time.

    Reply
    1. FireFly
      September 4, 2017

      4 cats sleep in bed with me every night (frequently on top of me and against my face) and follow thethe humans around the house constantly. I guess it’s a miracle I’m still alive after so much being subjected to those deadly stray hairs.

      Reply
      1. panait ciprian
        September 5, 2017

        are you an infant? I said that is a big danger to infants. second I am ot sure how healthy you are with so many cats around . An adult can live with lung problems from pets for a few years before it becomes patological. But yeah mock a real danger just but because nothing happened to you yet. Have you heard the story of the boy that cried wolf?

        Reply
        1. FireFly
          July 4, 2018

          You were right, why didn’t I listen! My entire family met their demise to stray cat hairs! D=

          You’ve probably realized I’m being facetious. Sorry for the waayyy late response, I actually just saw your response now.

          As for personally health, I’m in the best shape of my life and am training to improve my 10k time and run a half marathon. I developed asthma around age 10 and spent adolescence with pretty major breathing problems and lots of bronchitis when very young. One short haired dog in the house, no other pets at that point in my life. Now I’m an adult with 4 cats as previously mentioned. For a time we temporarily had 9 in the house (never meant to be permanent). I’ve worked with a wide variety of animals professionally, spent ample time in stables, and have had a plethora of pets since my childhood days. Hally to say my asthma is entirely under control with rarely any flare ups (again, I run a lot, also involved in roller derby would be tough with a sickly respiratory system). The only thing that really aggravates it are environmental allergens such as dust and pollen and sometimes some cleaning products. No issues with my cats.

          And I mentioned in that post I was about to have a baby; she’s here and she’s beautiful and in wonderful health and will be 10 months on the July 8th. She’s lean for a baby but impressively muscular (again, for a baby). She’s very bright and inquisitive and bold and perceptive and hitting milestones on the very early side of the curve. She has no wheezing or congestion issues, no snoring or sleep apnea, nothing to indicate there’s anything harmful in her respiratory system. And while I keep my home pretty tidy I’m so very far from a germaphobic neatfreak. I grew up (and still am) the rough and tumble outdoorsy type and give my baby girl pretty free reign to explore the world (under my watchful guidance of course). And guess what. She adores animals.

          Truly, seeing and interacting with animals bring such pure and unbridled joy and happiness to this little girl. And as a lifelong animal lover who’s life has revolved around them I am thrilled by that. The squeals and giggles of delight she lets loose when around them could melt even your heart. I have so many adorable pics of her with her kitties. Heck, our big male used to sleep on.her changing table a lot. When I’d lay her on it to change her he wouldn’t even budge, haha. He was entirely ok with her bumping into him and grabbing him. And now she’s entirely mobile she loves them, lol. And they don’t lash out or get angry at her. If they don’t want her to bother them they just run off where she can’t get to them.

          Beyond cats she’s played with my dogs at my parents’ house, one being incredibly shaggy. She’s even been on a horse (not a pony or miniature) and she loved it! She sat upright in the saddle by herself, touching and feeling the pommel and reins, no one holding or supporting her (though the horse was of course being held on it’s lead with an adult on either side as well). The only time I was concerned about an animal impacting her healthy was when I thought she might laugh her little self to death watching a goat XD. And the pics of of her laying on a juvenile potbelly pig are precious. I’ve actually read that pets and exposure to animals in infancy can DECREASE the risk of allergies.

          TLDR, your uptight, helicopter parenting is an unnecessary construct of our time. Over-sheltering a child is almost as bad as over-exposing or even neglect. There’s a middle ground. And in that middle ground there is room for animals and dirt and the occasionally scrapes and bruises. My little girl isn’t even walking yet and she’s living a rich life full of wonderful experiences and lessons. Her kitties have at times been very sweet to her and patient with her, at worst they’ve been dismissive and avoid her. And they, nor their hair, have caused her any harm.

          Reply
  7. Melissa Smith
    August 4, 2017

    I read the article; thank you for sharing! It does say that there is no solid proof that cats cause babies to die or cause allergies, but to me (a layperson) it looks like intriguing stuff that should be pursued and studied further.

    I have had a cat for 14.5 years; longhaired. My son was 5 when we got him and neither he nor I have ever had any issues with asthma or allergies.

    Reply
    1. panait ciprian
      December 20, 2017

      Melissa the greatest danger and most cases I think happen with children under 2 and especially under 1 year old. It is definitely not a good thing to spend a lot of time in a room with a log haired cat, but the effects may take years to manifest in older persons.

      Reply
      1. Melissa Smith
        December 20, 2017

        Good to know – and I do think that people need to be more aware than they are when they decide to introduce pets and children. Some animals are totally fine with kids, others not so much. It’s a big decision that people usually don’t give the proper thought to; the attitude is usually “I’m sure it will be fine.” But for the sake of the cat and the children, forethought and planning are needed.

        Reply
  8. FireFly
    September 4, 2017

    Based on the fact that this article even exists, that there are people who’ve believed these myths, and seeing some of these comments…damn. This only serves to raise my opinion of animals and lower my opinion of humans, lol. I would trust my dogs and cats alone with my baby (who was due 3 days ago, still waiting on her ><) over many of folks commenting here, lol. She's more likely to suffer from catching their stupid than dying to a homicidal cat or inhaling a stray animal hair XD

    Reply
  9. FireFly
    September 4, 2017

    With my baby coming any day that’s my only concern. I trust my kittens to not intentionally hurt the baby, but do want to make sure their time spent with her is under supervision so they don’t curl up in her face ><

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth Encinas
    November 8, 2017

    I’ll have to disagree with your article on a few things. 1 always listen to your doctor over internet articles, its your doctor’s job to know these things. 2 Some cats get extremely agitated at the sound of a baby crying (I’ve had two that would try to bite/attack when the baby would cry. And yes it was aggressive, growling and all) cats are mostly self centered creatures (not all, mind you) and since they have such cute hearing, of course they will want the crying to stop. If a child is crying or screaming and is generally inconsolable, the cat may try to take matters into their own paws. My point is, be careful. Every cat is different, and if you have a baby right now and you’re thinking about adopting a cat, I wouldn’t. I’m not saying get rid of your cat if you have one, but it will be hard for both you and the new cat to adjust to life with a baby. A stressed out cat and a crying baby don’t mix, trust me.

    Reply
    1. Melissa Smith
      November 8, 2017

      I think this is great advice – it’s important for parents to really pay attention to how their pet is reacting to the new dynamic in the household. Even cats who were “fine with babies” in the past bear watching. It’s just smart to pay attention and address any issues before they become serious.

      Reply

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