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The old wives' tale that cats sometimes maliciously kill newborn babies by sucking out their breath has been around since at least 1607. How is it possible that more than 400 years later, some people still believe the story has merit? It's difficult to fathom, but many people still give up their cats when they find out they have a baby on the way.

This is not only unnecessary, it can cause grief, both for the cat, and the ones who love it. Before you give up your feline friend in favor of your baby, take a look at the myth, the things you really need to be concerned about, and how to keep harmony in your home with both a cat and a newborn baby.

Cats and babies can live in harmony
Photo credit: blisstree.com
The Myth

Think about it for a moment. How could a cat possibly suck the breath out of a baby's lungs? It's physically impossible as any reputable pediatrician or veterinarian will tell you. Not only that, the cat has no motivation to do such a thing, even if it could. While there is a possibility your cat may experience some jealousy when you bring your new baby home, he's unlikely to take it out on the baby in such a violent way.

The Real Risks

More than expressing feelings of jealousy, your cat may feel the need to defend its territory from this little interloper in the crib. The most likely way he's going to do this is by urinating in the crib. It's called "marking," and nearly all cats—both male and female—do it if they feel their turf is being encroached upon. A cat may also urinate someplace besides the litter box if they feel stressed, and bringing a new baby home can certainly be a source of stress for other members of the household, including your pets.

A greater risk is, in fact, suffocation, but it's not intentional. As a cat owner, you know your furry friend likes to cuddle up against you to sleep. Doing this provides both warmth and security. But a cat doesn't know that a baby is vulnerable, and can possibly snuggle up against the baby's face, impeding its breathing. A newborn that can't yet turn its head will have no way defense against a cuddling cat. Remember that this danger is just as prevalent with pillows, or too many blankets or stuffed animals in the crib.

The Better Solutions

You don't have to give your cat away. Behavior issues may occur from time to time. It's all part of owning a pet, and addressing those issues is part of being a responsible pet owner. For some people, the immediate response is to try to give the cat pet meds, like sedatives, to calm the cat and stop the marking behavior. This may be a viable treatment, but it's likely a last resort. Only your vet can determine whether your cat needs any medication. Before you go that route, try a few other solutions.
Properly introducing your cat to the baby is essential
Photo credit: essentialbaby.com.au

Introduce Your Cat to the Baby

When you first get home with the baby, take a few minutes to give your cat some uninterrupted one-on-one time. Play with her, pet her, give her a treat, cuddle her if she tolerates it. Let her know she's important to you.

Your cat will naturally be curious about the newcomer. While you're holding the baby, allow your cat to approach, sniff, and generally check things out. The more you try to keep them apart, the greater lengths your cat will go to in order to get a peek at the weird, noisy thing, including possibly jumping into the crib or onto the changing table, possibly startling or scratching the baby without meaning to. Let her see the baby, and get used to the new scent. Chances are, she'll become bored pretty quickly, and move on to other things.

As your baby grows, remember to keep the kitty safe, too. Babies will be just as curious as cats, and will want to grab and pull at their tails, ears, and fur, or poke their shiny eyes. This can provoke the cat to scratch or bite to defend itself. It's up to you to keep them both safe, and as he grows, teach your child to respect your pet.

Make time to play one-on-one with kitty
Photo credit: rextalkingdog.com
Keep The Cat Out of The Crib

You'll undoubtedly set the crib up well in advance of bringing the baby home. In the meantime, don't let the cat sleep in it. A crib can be a nice hiding place for kitty, but don't let him start thinking it's his territory or you run the risk of him coming in to mark it when he finds a baby in there.

To avoid any mishaps with the baby, like the cat lying too close to the baby's face, keep the nursery door closed when the baby is napping. If you're keeping the crib somewhere that can't be closed off, put up a crib tent to keep the cat from jumping into it.

Make Time For Kitty

A new baby will demand nearly all your attention. But try to make a few minutes every day for your cat. Most cats are very independent, but this doesn't mean they do well being completely ignored. They still need attention and care.

Try not to let your hectic baby-feeding schedule cause you to forget to fill up the cat's food and water dishes. Above all, make sure you're keeping the litter box clean. Letting it get out of hand because you're short on time is a sure way to cause the cat to start urinating in other places, like the sofa or your bed.

With a little planning, some education, and a lot of patience, you can bring your baby home to a loving family that includes your beloved cat.

Jackie is a writer for 1-800-PetMeds and loves to help and support the pet community. You can follow PetMeds on Twitter or connect with PetMeds on Facebook.

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