Cat Behaviour, General Care For Your Cat

Is It Safe To Have Cats Around Newborn Babies?

You have a cat and you are expecting a baby. You look at your cat and questions start to appear in your mind.

Will my cat get along with my baby? Will he/she hurt my baby (accidentally or not)? Should I continue owning my cat, or do I have to make the painful decision of sending him/her away in the case that she might cause harm to my baby?

These are all valid questions to have in mind, and there is nothing shameful if the thought of giving your cat away after your baby is born ever crossed your mind (unless it’s abandoning the cat into an uncertain future). After all, you are merely trying to seek the best solution for two of your loved ones.

However, the good news is – you can keep your cat AND your baby together, with some precautions (that will be highlighted in this post) of course.

Things To Do Before The Baby Arrives Home

There are multiple things that you can do before you give birth and bring the baby home to ensure a smooth transition for your cat, which will greatly reduce the amount of troubles that you face when the baby finally arrives home.

Firstly, babies make higher pitched voices and move very differently (unpredictably) as compared to adults, and your cat may find it strange or scary. This may result in a scared or aggressive reaction from your cat. To minimize chances of such cases happening with your baby, play short tapes/videos of a baby’s voice or cries to your cat before the baby arrives home. Your cat may be taken aback at first and show signs of fear or react aggressively. This is when you have to talk to your cat and calm him/her down. If he/she merely reacts calmly with curiosity, encourage the behaviour through praise.

Secondly, if you are changing a room that he/she has frequent access too, you might want to consider redecorating the room bit by bit instead of changing everything at once. This allows your cat to get used to the new items slowly instead having to experience multiple changes at the same time, which reduces the amount of stress your cat have to experience at any one point of time.

Thirdly, you may want to start using baby powder/lotion some time before your baby reaches home. Cats are very sensitive to smells and having your cat used to the baby power/lotion smell will help him/her accept your baby better due to the association of the smell with someone that he/she loves (you!), which will carry over to your baby.

Lastly, introduce items with your baby’s scent to your cat (if possible) prior to the introduction session. This allows your cat to understand that the new addition to the family is not as much of a stranger as he/she thinks it may be.

Possible Dangers

Even after you have completed all the steps above, there are several dangers that you should be aware of, which I will list down here.

Danger No. 1: If your cat is infected with a parasite (usually due to eating animals caught outside the house) and it passes on to you, it may result in birth defects or even miscarriages and stillbirths.

How To Prevent: It is suggested that you keep bring your cat to the veterinarian for a check-up the moment you know that you are pregnant, and keep your cat indoors if possible during the your pregnancy terms. It is also best to feed your cat cooked meat (if you do not feed him/her kibbles) to reduce the chances of infections. Of course, this is also the perfect time to ask your partner to help with the litter box!

Danger No. 2: Your cat may sleep near the head of the baby or, in rarer cases, directly on top of the baby. This is because cats enjoy being near warm bodies. This may cause the baby to experience suffocation which results in death.

How To Prevent: When your cat is near the baby, be there to supervise the interaction. In the case where you have to leave the baby alone without supervision, ensure that the cat is not in the same room/area. If not, you can always opt for a crib tent to put over the crib.

Danger No. 3: Your baby may do an action that provoke the cat, such as smacking his/her hand on your cat’s face accidentally, or pull the cat’s tail out of curiosity. Your cat may (or may not) hiss, snarl, or even scratch or bite your baby in return.

How To Prevent: Unfortunately, this case is not preventable, unless you can stop your baby in time. However, to prevent the situation from getting worse, separate the cat and the baby immediately for some time. If the baby is injured (especially with blood drawn) you might want to visit a local clinic. This again stresses the importance of supervised interaction between your cat and your baby.

Benefits

Most people are aware of the possible dangers, but they do not know that having a cat with a baby has its benefits too.

Benefit No. 1: A research study published in Microbiome has shown that babies who are exposed to household pets have more protection against allergies and obesity due to a higher level of  gut microbes. It is also known widely that having a household pet will heighten a child’s immune system to common allergens, making them less susceptible to allergies or infections.

Benefit No. 2: Having a cat at home allows your child to have an additional companion. Even though a baby is still developing his/her vocal and motor skills, it does not mean that they cannot interact with another person/animal. In fact, if your baby receives feedback from your cat (such as meowing or nudging) after an interaction, it will encourage your baby to offer interaction further – and this forms the basis for future social interactions.

Therefore, if you take the necessary precautions, having a cat and a baby together will bring you great joy and benefits for all parties!

If you have any questions that you want to ask, anything you wish to clarify, or simply want to express your thoughts and feelings, feel free to leave a comment!

8 thoughts on “Is It Safe To Have Cats Around Newborn Babies?

  1. We used to own cats, but ever since we had children, we haven’t gone back to owning any (we live near a main road and don’t feel it’s fair on cats, and dangerous). 

    Anyway, we often had conversations when our cats were alive about what would happen if we had a baby – we were scared about the thought of the cat lying across the babies head (as you mention here!). 

    It is however, nice to hear that babies who are exposed to household pets have more protection against allergies. 

    Really interesting article – did you have any examples of cats around the house with young children?

    1. Hey Chris,

      Indeed, if you live near a main road, it increases the dangers that the cat will face – but cats are intelligent creatures too, they do know how to avoid vehicles.

      As for cats around young children, I do have a few examples of cats around children of age 4 and older. The children know how to treat the cat properly as by this age, they are already able to understand what their parents tell them (to treat the cat nicely, don’t pull the tail etc.), so the risks are not as high. Each family also has their own rules on where the cat is allowed. One family allows the cat to sleep in the house but not in the bedrooms, while another would allow entry into the bedrooms as they have a mini cat tree in each room.

      Cats with babies are rare due to the amount of work it takes to care for both the baby and the cat, not to mention all the additional work that has to be done before and after the baby’s arrival as precautionary measures. For parents with firstborns, they are worried about caring for their first child, while for those with multiple young children, caring for all of them already take up a lot of their time and energy, so it is hard to find examples.

      I hope this answers your question!

      Rachel

  2. Hey Rachel,

    Thanks for a very detailed article. The only problem i would have is for a specific parasite the cats have and might get to the baby. But then again, I wouldn’t let the cat anywhere near the baby, at least for the first year. I’d keep it outside the house, until it gets familiar with the baby. My in-laws had a stray cat they took care of, and they wouldn;t allow it inside the house at night, and rarely during the day.

    Thanks again!

    Marios

    1. Hey Marios,

      This can be a way too, keeping the cat away from the baby for the first year. 

      However, do note that if your cat has always been sleeping in the house and you changed to keeping him/her outside, he/she may experience stress or even run away. Keeping him/her on a leash near the house is not advised, as this prevents your cat from roaming or protect himself/herself from natural predators. Therefore, while I respect your views, I do suggest the option of only barring your cat from the nursery, at the same time giving your cat health check-ups and maintaining your own hygiene during the year.  

      All the best to you and your family!

      Rachel

      1. Yeah, if you do have the cat sleeping in the house before the baby, I agree that you shouldn’t change that. If you know you will have a baby in the house at some point though, I’d suggest leaving the cat on the porch/veranda at night – if, of course, the weather permits.

        Marios

        1. Yep, that makes a lot of sense, and thank you for pointing this way out so future parents can start to shift their cat outdoors if they are expecting a baby!

          Rachel

  3. Having a cat around newborn children can have a lot of benefits but also dangers. From personal experience I would say that the two can definitely coexist but parent need to be very careful and follow some simple precautions like what you describe. If it is done right and parents are careful I don’t see the reason why the two cannot be together. Responsibility is the key here. Very good article and will for sure help parents that want to have both.

    1. Indeed, ultimately, it is dependent on the parents’ willingness to take the necessary precautions to minimize the risks of dangers really happening.

      Thank you for sharing your view!

      Rachel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *