6 Myths About Cats and Babies — True or False?

I've had friends who were torn apart by the idea of giving up their pets when they got pregnant and I've never been pregnant so I never understood why there was a dilemma at all. I mean babies and cats, they're both cute in my eyes and they both need the same affection and love, through good times and bad times.

So what gives? Here's what Gayle Hickman of Pets Adviser has to say:

Myths about the co-existence 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.

Over the past few years, as I have become more knowledgeable about cat behaviors, I’ve come to learn the true facts about cat/baby relationships. Below are six common beliefs that the editors of Pets Adviser often hear on this subject — and I break down whether they are true or false.

Myth 1: Cats can tell when you are pregnant. MAYBE.

As it turns out, this one may very well be true. According to Dr. Raymond Van Lienden, DVM, of The Animal Clinic of Clifton, Va., scents that are unique to pregnancy, although invisible to humans, can be detected by some animals, including cats.

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

Although toxoplasmosis is a risk for fetuses, a woman is more likely to contract it from handling raw meat or digging in the garden than from a cat. Pregnant women can protect themselves from cat-related exposure by (carefully) emptying the litter box at least once a day.

Toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by a parasite that can affect your cat if he eats prey that is already infected with the parasite, is quite rare among indoor cats. Because there are not always telltale symptoms of the disease, precautions should be taken when cleaning the litter box. Wearing disposable gloves and washing hands after cleaning are two suggested preventives.

Immunity to toxoplasmosis is common. 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 — usually they shed it.

So, don’t panic on this one. 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.” Take the above-mentioned precautions and all should be well.

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

Most cats get along great with babies.

This one had me concerned when I was a young mother with an infant.

Having always been told that babies were not safe around cats (because of the “milk scent” on infants’ bodies), I found myself terrified when I witnessed a strange cat trying to break through a screened window to get to my baby.

As the baby lay sleeping in his cradle near the window, I heard a cat hissing and saw him pawing determinedly to get past the screen. Grabbing my child into my arms, 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 wive’s tale, stemming from the longtime belief that cats were symbols of evil. The fact is, cats are not only curious, but they are heat and comfort seekers. Curling up with an infant in a crib satisfies all of these needs.

Be aware, though, that if a cat presses up against the face of a bundled infant who does not know to turn away on his own, that infant’s breathing may be hampered. Infant deaths by suffocation are most often attributed to pillows or a sleeping person accidentally smothering the infant as they sleep together.

Bottom line: It’s best to keep your cat out of the nursery at nap time or bed time, just in case, says Dr. Teri Schweiss, vice president of animal welfare at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Myth 4: If a cat hears a baby crying, he will think another cat is in the house and climb into the cot to harm the baby. FALSE.

Cats are curious, and a new baby’s cries may be something they want to investigate. As mentioned above, babies give off warmth, and a cat may try to climb into the crib to share that warmth. It is extremely unlikely that that a cat would harm a baby.

Of course, it is not recommended that cats and babies sleep together. A net can be placed over the crib so your cat cannot snuggle in with baby. Some parents choose to replace the door to the baby’s room with a screen door, which allows kitty to see and smell the baby. That way, he does not feel completely left out.

Myth 5: Flea bites can KILL a baby. FALSE.

Although they can be very annoying to a baby, flea bites will not kill baby. If bitten by fleas, your infant may develop a rash.

Dr. Ann L. Huntington, DVM, of Suffield Veterinary Hospital, in Suffield, Conn., 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.

Myth 6: Cats are not good with babies. FALSE.

Most cats are typically very good with babies. When you bring a new baby home for the first time, let your cat sniff around to get the smell of 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.

Still need some convincing that cats are not evil? Watch this video :)

What did you do when a baby came along?

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