Something someone said this week got me thinking about the old “Cats around babies” saga- something I’m sure many other pregnant women have wondered and worried about too.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a bit of a crazy cat lady. I love my fur-babies! My 2 half Siamese fluffy awesome little beauties are just as much a part of my family as me and Mr. W in my eyes. They even have human names- Rita and Lenny. It’s not just cats that get me soppy, Mr. W often jokes if he left me to my own devices he’d arrive home one night to find a mini zoo in the house! It’s true that if I won the lottery I would buy giant premises with acres and acres of gardens and turn into a pampered pet place; the Ritz of the pet sanctuary world. Donkeys, elephants, guinea pigs, cats, lizards, sloths, dogs, giraffes- you get the point- all welcome! But for now I’ve settled for just the two cats… for now.
I’ve heard stories that you should be careful with cats around babies, that cats naturally like to curl up in warm snuggly places (like a cot) and sleep their troubles away; that they would/could accidentally smother a young baby to death in the process. I have to say the thought of one of my fur-babies accidentally smothering my baby-baby sends me cold inside. Bearing this in mind I decided to do some research to see how common it is for cats to smother babies.
I found details of one “famous case” where a cat was thought to have smothered a 6 week old to death in London. The mother found the 6 week old in the cot with the cat led on top of it. Naturally, the poor woman was completely devastated and informed the police and ambulance services of how she found her baby with the cat. As I read on it turned out, once investigated by a coroner, the cause of death was actually, very sadly, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The fact that the cat was in the cot with the baby when he was found was complete coincidence. I found no other stories to suggest a baby had ever been smothered by a cat.
The problem is that the original story is much more interesting than the true cause of death, which is why the story has stuck around for years. The stories of cats smothering babies originated from old wives tales, back in the days when cats were associated with witches, death and all things evil. The story then was that cats, on the instruction of witches, sucked the breath from newborn babies on purpose. Obviously time passed and people outgrew the whole “witch hunt” era but the legend still hung around with people editing the story slightly to suit the time. The theory changed to cats killing babies out of jealously, because they could smell milk on their breaths then morphed into the simple version widely voiced today; cats smother babies.
If we look at this realistically, as a cat owner for around 15 years, I agree that cats like to curl up somewhere warm (who wants to lie out in the cold?) but I’ve never woken up once in the night to a mouth full of fur because one of my cats has decided my face would be a good place to sleep. Similarly, as for the smelling milk theory, my cats hate milk! We’ve tried them with it loads to no avail, so I can’t see why they would be so interested in my breast milk…
Having said that, not taking precautions wouldn’t be wise, cat nets for prams, Moses baskets and cots are readily available from places like Mothercare and online stores like Amazon for around £10 so I will, without doubt, be investing- if not to just give me piece of mind. I’m pretty much 100% sure that the last thing my fur-babies will be doing is going anywhere near my squalling, little bundle- but knowing there’s some sort of protection over the cot will definitely ease some of my woes! And I’m bound to have more than a few when I come home with Baby Wood for the first time!
I think, if anything, my fur-babies are more likely to venture into the cot, moses basket and pram when the baby ISNT in there- especially my Rita cat who has a penchant for sleeping on soft, plump blankets and cushioned areas (pampered much?) It is also true that cats are curious- hence the saying- so I’m sure they will be attempting to explore these new “baby things” as I bring them home. This is pretty natural.
Experts advise that you let them have a sniff around the baby cot first, so they know what’s what; curiosity cured, they’ll more than likely lose interest quickly and by the time the baby comes they’ll be completely bored with it all. Still, it’s worthwhile leaving cots and other baby sleeping areas covered when not in use, to avoid them being caked in cat hair!- Which, as any cat owner knows, is entirely unpleasant and a nightmare to remove!
According to the advice I’ve found, most people say stick to the general rule of not leaving your baby alone in a room with an animal (any animal) at any times and regarding cats, the time to keep more of eye on them is when baby grows into a grabby, crawling monster that’s likely to roughly grab the end of a wiggly tail, resulting in a possible swipe from a clawed, angry paw! Chances are cats are going to keep their distance from a baby, especially when they realize how noisy they are!
So after reading all that, I’m not as worried as I was before! Well, not about babies and cats… One of my next ports of call looks likely to be researching babies and dogs! I’ll be sure to update you…