Some people would rather go for cats when it comes to having pets at home.
Statistics show that cats are the second most-owned pets (after dogs) in the United States, with 25.4% of household ownership.
In simpler words, over a quarter of households in the United States have cats as pets rather than dogs.
And as a nursing parent, you might be part of that 25.4% of people who own a cat(s), and perhaps that makes you wonder if it is safe for your baby to be around cats.
And the truth is, there’s nothing much to worry about if your baby is around cats, and I’ll tell you why.
But before then, I’d like to point out an essential feature about cats, and it’s the fact that cats are nocturnal. In this context, they have very active night vision – they can see clearly in low light (darkness).
However, a Veterinarian, Gary Weitzman, argued that cats could see up to six times better than the average human in the dark. This is because they don’t precisely have night vision, but their natural hunting instincts allow them to see very well in the dark. He also added that cats wouldn’t be able to see in a case of absolute darkness.
But that’s not our concern at this time – we want to agree that cats can see clearly in the dark.
Why is that relevant to this article? Because the ability of cats to see in the dark ensures your baby’s safety even at night – your cat won’t attack your baby as a perceived threat because it sees clearly that it’s your baby.
So, the purpose of this guide is to show you more reasons why your baby is safe around cats and also provide some tips on how you can keep cats and babies together.
Misconception About Cats and Babies
Before now, certain misconceptions lingered around the reality of the relationships between cats and babies. And to that effect, some parents have decided never to have cats as pets, not to talk more about allowing cats near their babies.
This misconception is simply leaving misinformed and ignorant people in its wake, and it is high time we corrected such a narrative, which is precisely what I want to do in this section.
That said, let’s get it over with.
First Misconception – A Baby’s Cry Can Make a Cat Harm Them
Contrary to some old fables’ cats do not attack babies from the sound of their cries. And just like it is normal for humans to become curious or somewhat anxious at the sound of an utterance, cats likewise can express similar behavior and want to go close to the baby. Still, they will not try to harm the baby.
Cats are usually curious, and their move towards the sound of the cries is basically for investigation borne out of their curiosity.
Second Misconception – Cats Steal Baby’s Breath
Although cats may be interested in the smell of milk residues from the baby’s mouth, cats would not smuggle out oxygen from the baby’s lungs.
They also love to cuddle up close to the baby’s cot due to their natural desire for warmth.
They sometimes love to sniff around the newborn but have no intention of suffocating or killing the baby.
Meanwhile, it is advisable not to keep babies and cats unsupervised, as the good-intentioned cat might rest on the helpless baby, which might lead to unintentional suffocation, just like a duvet or blanket left carelessly could lead to the suffocation of a baby.
Third Misconception – Cats Are Unfriendly
Owing to some random notions about cats being unfriendly and thereby unsafe to keep around newborns, some parents would rather not have cats as pets.
Cats could look cold and unfriendly, but this is not usually the case.
On the contrary, studies have shown cats to be great, lovely, and safe to have as pets.
Therefore, this wrong notion about cats should not stop a parent or anyone who desires to have a cat from owning one.
Having debunked some of these misconceptions that have caused significant concerns to parents regarding their adorable kitty and dear little one, we will now offer some tips and what to look out for in keeping both babies and cats together.
But first, we will guide you on how to prepare your cat before your baby arrives.
How to Prepare Your Cat Before Your Baby Arrives
For parents welcoming a new baby, probably the first child, having had the cat for a while makes it feel like an only child. So, carrying out these necessary preparations is essential to help the cat adjust appropriately to the new development.
Here are some proactive measures parents can carry out in preparation for a new baby.
Let the cat get used to baby sounds. Your baby, at one point or the other, will make sounds that might appear strange to the cats.
For instance, when babies cry, the cat gets alarmed, which could result in some nervousness or unplanned actions from the cat.
Hence, the parent must prepare the cat for such moments. One of the ways you do that is by playing a recording of some baby sounds. By doing that, the cats begin to get used to these seemingly strange sounds.
The process should be taken gradually as they will get used to it.
Make the cat get used to baby smells.
Smells are a thing for cats. They do have a good sense of smell. The new smell from baby powder or soaps might be offensive to cats.
So, these smells must be introduced to them by the parent rubbing items such as powders on their skins so they familiarize themselves with it and don’t see it as unusual.
Prioritize health measures.
Studies have it that one of the likely sources of Toxoplasmosis (a disease resulting from an infection with a common parasite) is the feces of cats.
These parasites can spread from cats to humans. Hence, extra care should be given when handling cats’ litter boxes.
Using gloves while handling litter boxes and properly washing hands is highly advised.
Now that some proactive measures that can be taken to prepare your cat to meet your adorable little human have been mentioned,
We will now take you on a tour of introducing your cat to your baby.
How to Introduce Your Cat to Your Baby
Introducing a new family member to the cat should be taken gradually and with great care.
The following steps will enhance the relationship between the cat and the family.
Before getting started, it is essential to note that your cat has initially been used to seeing adults like you, your partner, and maybe your relatives and friends. So, bringing in a baby is a new scenario.
This emphasizes the patience needed on the parent’s part in introducing the cat to the baby.
Let cats come around the baby.
Due to the curious nature of cats, you will likely see the cats want to come around the baby to sniff the baby’s skin.
As a parent, this might get you alarmed, but don’t worry, allow the cat to get around the baby.
Please note that this should only be allowed under the strict supervision of the parent. Sniffing around the baby will help the cat in the familiarization process.
Reassure the cat.
Some reassuring gestures will go a long way in helping the cat get friendly and comfortable around the baby.
While observing the cat sniff around the baby, do well to praise the cat when it carries out friendly gestures around the baby.
Let it know when it is doing well. Acts of affirmation further encourage the cat to stick to the routine or instructions given.
Introduce mutual respect.
As the baby grows up, it might occasionally get in the way of the cat. Owing to the ignorance of the baby, there are times babies will want to poke into the eyes of the cat or try to make some moves that might not go well with the cat.
In such a situation, it is only natural that the cat gets defensive and responds in a hostile manner because cats will always be cats – they still have animalistic tendencies, and you can’t take that away from them – you might suppress it. But, still, you’ll never take it out of them.
With that on our radar, parents must understand that they have a huge role to play in guiding their babies on what and what not to do in a bid to play with the cat.
Through words, actions, affirmations, and sometimes a friend, the child will understand how best to relate happily around the cat. This is important as the baby will learn to live, love, understand and respect the cat.
How To Help Cats and Babies Bond Well
The baby and cat need to bond, enhancing a favorable environment.
Here are some tips that will enable that.
Guide your child’s voice.
Children naturally have random, carefree loud voices. This, on the part of the child, is not meant to scare the cat away. But unfortunately, some of these loud voices can appear strange to the cat, thereby making it alarmed.
So, the child must be taught to use a more calm and friendly tone in communicating with the cat. This will most likely make the cat feel safe around the baby.
You should also note that cats have different temperaments, so for the shy ones who like being withdrawn, this will make them feel safer and enhance bonding.
Involve the child in the feeding process.
This is another way to go, but it should be done under strict supervision. The child can observe and help out during the preparations of cat meals.
And if possible, the cats should be made to see the child taking part in preparing the cat’s meal. This will eventually build up the bond between the cat and your baby.
Reading and Education.
For older children who can read, reading about cat-related books and some movies will foster a good relationship between cat and baby.
This will spur the child’s interest in cats and enable them to understand better and appreciate certain cats’ behavior.
Those who cannot read yet should be taught some basics, like jumping around and shouting that could startle cats or send unfriendly signals should be avoided.
Set a playtime routine.
Parents should set a time for the cat, child, and parent to play together. Toys can be introduced at this point while the parent supervises.
Babies can gently rub cats’ fur even as the cat is allowed to sniff around the baby. This, too, should be done with the supervision of the parents.
Is It Safe for My Baby to Be Around Cats
Until now, we haven’t given a definite response to whether your baby is safe around cats. So, therefore, let me use this medium to clarify that quickly.
So, here’s your answer: Your baby is safe around cats, provided the situation is usually supervised and the tips mentioned above are being adhered to.
The reason for this supervision is that: as I said, cats will always have animalistic tendencies in them, and such tendencies will likely be expressed through violence in the face of threat, even though it’s from your baby – and we both know how babies can do stupid things unintentionally.
In other words, you don’t want your baby’s inexperience to place him on the receiving end of the violent response of your cat. This is why you must always watch how your baby relates to the cat.
In summary, cats are domestic animals that see better at night. And because their feces contain Toxoplasmosis, which is responsible for a particular disease, owners of cats should be careful when handling poop because it could affect an unborn baby.
Cats can be good playmates for babies when they have a bond and understanding. However, some babies are allergic to cats. So, as a parent, you should supervise your child long enough to see if he’s allergic to cats.
Although I have never seen a child allergic to cats, I’ve heard stories. But who knows? Your child might be different, so you must be intentional about everything and not leave anything to chance.