Cats and babies: a parent’s guide to keeping kids & kitties safe
If you’re a cat owner with a little one on the way, you may be worried that cats and babies aren’t a good combination. Or maybe you’d like to experience pet sitting a cute kitty, but are unsure whether its safe to do so with a toddler.
Whoever you are, we’re here to clear up your concerns, dispel the common cat and baby myths, and let you know how to keep kids and kitties happy together.
Cats and babies — the myths
1. Cats steal babies’ breath
One of the most common worries when it comes to cats and babies is ‘stealing breath’. As the name suggests, this is the belief that cats will suffocate a baby by breathing in its breath.
Of course, this moggie myth is untrue — our furry friends do not suck away the breath of babies. However, many cats do enjoy cuddling up to their humans, which can be dangerous when it comes to smaller family members. If a cat rests on top of a baby or a young child, this could easily lead to accidental suffocation.
So, if you’re a parent who owns a cat, it’s important to supply your kitty with a warm and snuggly place to sleep, away from your child. This could be a cute pet igloo or large cat tree, which will also act as a safe retreat in times of stress. For extra peace of mind, new parents can also reduce the risk of accidental injury or the transmission of diseases by keeping cats out of the crib and pram using specially designed nets.
2. Cats can harm unborn babies
There is some fact to this feline myth; while cats themselves are not dangerous, cat faeces can contain a parasite which may cause the dangerous disease, toxoplasmosis.
Unfortunately, due to the potential risk cat poo poses, many pregnant cat owners choose to relinquish their pet to rehoming centres. However, this is unnecessary; pregnant mothers can keep their moggies, they just need to make some simple adjustments...
Advice for pregnant cat owners
Pregnant women often make lots of little changes to their usual lives to ensure a happy pregnancy and a healthy baby. If you’re a pregnant cat owner, it simply means you have a few more things to think about.
On the whole, you and your cat should be able to maintain your normal routine, providing excellent general hygiene is practiced. However, expecting mums should not deal with cat litter trays, faeces, or soiled areas in the garden. Similarly, gloves should always be worn when gardening or handling any object that could have come into contact with cat faeces.
Also, to reduce the risk of infection, any cat litter trays must be cleaned multiple times a day and completely changed on a weekly basis. When pregnant or if you have small children, it’s particularly important to ensure your cat is wormed regularly. Remember, worming treatment is not residual and so monthly dosing is advised.
Finally, as cute as the kitty may be, pregnant people must completely avoid all contact with unknown and stray cats.
Introducing cats and newborn babies
As every new parent knows, bringing a bundle of joy home can be a stressful time. And, the sudden presence of a baby in the home can cause even the coolest kitty to feel uncomfortable. So, before introducing a new baby to your cat, the kindest thing to do is prepare them:
- One popular technique is the use of pheromone therapy; pheromones are used as a form of communication between cats, with felines depositing them within their home to create a safe and happy environment. The synthetic version of the pheromones is available as both a plug-in diffuser and a spray, which you should start using a few weeks before the baby’s arrival. This will help the cat to feel safe at home, reduce stress, and consequently aid their acceptance of the new arrival.
- Another clever preparation tactic is to download and play baby sounds before the little one arrives. This will help your feline become familiar to the sound of a baby, so they can adjust to the new noises in plenty of time. Once the baby is born, it’s also a good idea to introduce your cat to the baby’s smell indirectly. Simply let them have a sniff of something belonging to the baby, such as a blanket.
- Once the baby arrives home, make sure your pussy cat’s possessions — like water, food, bed, and toys — are kept away from the new addition to the family. This will mean there is no forced interaction between the two; forced interaction can lead to aggressive behaviour and prolong the time it takes for your cat and baby to bond. But don’t worry — cats are naturally inquisitive and so your kitty will be over for a sniff soon enough.
As well as trying these tips and tactics, an integral part of dealing with cats and newborn babies is to ensure you still spend quality time with your pet. This will help them feel safe and secure, despite all the unsettling changes around them.
Toddlers & cats: how to keep a happy family
Toddlers and cats can be a tricky combination, with inquisitive children yet to learn how to properly play with pets. However, cats can be great companions for children of all ages, as long as they’re properly supervised.
So, if you’re a parent of an inquisitive kid and are caring for a kitty, it’s important to look out for any subtle signs of irritation or discomfort. If these are overlooked, then the cat will likely move onto more obvious signs, such as growling, hissing and, even worse, scratching or biting.
To prevent the cat becoming distressed and potentially harming the toddler, safe and supervised interactions should be encouraged. This includes teaching children to play with cats using long-handled toys or balls that can be rolled away. This will keep both toddler and cat safe while they build their own special bond.
Still unsure about cats and kids?
Growing up with pets is a great way for little ones to learn about animals, relationships, and important life lessons. If you’re not sure your family is prepared to fully commit to a kitty, a great way to allow your children to experience pet ownership is by house and pet sitting.
The community of TrustedHousesitters is a safe and easy way to find cute pets looking for people to stay with them in their home while their owners are away. With members around the world, there are animal-filled adventures near and far away for your family to discover.
Sound like something you and your little ones would love? Take some time to explore our members’ stories, tips and advice for families who house and pet sit. You can also find out more by talking to our 24/7 Membership Services team, who all have first-hand house and pet sitting experience.