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.
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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.” Just keep those precaution measures in mind.
Myth 3: Cats smother babies or suck air out of their lungs.
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.
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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.
Bottom line? Keep your cat out of the nursery during napping or bedtime, just in case.
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 forestalling 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.
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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.
With a few guidelines and proper supervision, baby and cat can develop a loving relationship, filling your life with many happy memories.