In the past 7 years of my career, one of the common things I have come across is people contact me and tell me they need to ‘get rid’ of their cats because they are now pregnant.
‘Pre-mother me’ wanted to yell at these people, but I felt I wasn’t qualified to criticise them.
Then I had my baby…
Now it has become my new mission in life to educate these people.
To top it off, I have since qualified as a doula. So…yes, I know quite a bit about babies and about the difficulty of being a new parent, etc. I think I am now qualified to talk on this subject matter. In fact, since the words got out that I am a cat behaviourist AND a doula, I have been getting many calls on cats vs baby. It has accidentally become my speciality!
(If you are one of these people who need advices, talk to me! I do house call all over Ireland, including Northern Ireland. I also do Skype consultation internationally.)
Here is the bottomline…it is CRAZY to think you need to get rid of your pet.
Babies have been living with animals since the beginning of human history…
So since when babies can’t live with an animal?
I realise there are so many urban myths when it comes to pets and babies. Even medical professionals often suggest pregnant women to get rid of their animals without actually knowing why and without giving a scientific reason. So I decided for once and for all, I am going to talk about this subject matter head on and explain everything.
When I had my baby, I decided to keep a photo record of the interaction between my baby and my two cats, so that I could write an article like this one day. The photos are taken from when my baby was 1 hour old to yesterday (he is now 2 years and 9 months). I might update this post with more photos as he grows but I think from newborn to nearly 3 years of age is PRETTY good illustration that the cats still haven’t killed the baby.
What will the cat do after I have the baby?
(Disclaimer: every cat is different. I am not suggesting every cat will behave the same. Without seeing your cat, I cannot possibly know your cat temperament and what exactly will happen. Having said that, I have worked with many cats vs baby situation in the past 3 years to draw the following conclusion. But it doesn’t change the fact that your case could be an exception. Reading a blog post is no replacement of a one on one consultation with a behaviourist to get advice of your specific cat in your specific family.)
1. The cats are not going to kill your baby
2. They are probably too scared of the ‘thing’ to even be in the same room with the baby. The loud noise, the sudden movement, the strange smell are all the things cats don’t like. If you are a cat lover, you already know that, right? So how can the cats even get close enough to the baby to do anything to the baby?
3. The cats are not sure what that ‘thing’ is, they think you have probably got a new pet, and it’s a monkey
4. Their anxiety level is going to be high. (Heck! The anxiety level is high for human dealing with a crying baby!) They might retreat to hiding, loss of appetite, overgrooming, marking behaviour, all the stuff that comes with anxiety
5. I know it’s an impossible task for the new parent to even think about the cats, if you can spend time with them, it will help, if you can’t (I know you can’t, I am a doula remember?), get your family members who are also cat lovers to help out. Family tends to visit the new baby or might stay over to help out in the house, get them to help with the cats. The cats need help, they are freaking out.
6. SUPERVISION! I need to put it in capital because I can’t emphasize that enough. I always ask people this question – will you leave your 2 year old with the newborn and you go to the kitchen to make tea? No, you won’t, because you know 2 year old might accidentally do something to the baby out of ignorance. So yes, your cat is your 2 year old, ok? A cat COULD trip when he loses his balance walking near the baby and could accidentally scratch the baby during a fall. So yes, accidents COULD happen. Hence, supervision is gold. But no, your cat won’t be plotting a plan to murder the new human, no.
7. You really shouldn’t leave the newborn baby somewhere else in the house and then go off anyway, accidents could happen even when they are alone in the room. Get a sling! Or bouncy chair or other container gadget so you can bring the baby with you to the kitchen. If you don’t have anything, use a laundry basket! Even that is better than to leave the baby in the room alone especially when you have pets at home. Put a few towels or baby blanket at the bottom of a laundry basket, put the baby in, you can carry the baby to the kitchen. It is also handy when you have to go to the toilet! They feel secure when they know you are nearby and you REALLY have to go to the toilet.
8. No, those net thing to put on top of the cot is not going to work. Not only it won’t work, it could potentially be a dangerous idea. So let me run this with you, you will see. So you put a thing on top of the cot…what does cat do when they see a new soft surface?
Yes, they are going to think it’s a hammock. So yes, they will sleep in it on top of the baby. Whoever invented that probably didn’t talk to a cat behaviourist.
9. You might need help in preparation to introducing the baby to the cats. Read this book. There are specific advice in the book about new baby.
10. Or get advice from a cat behaviourist to make sure the introduction of the baby to your house won’t cause too much anxiety to the cats.
***I am writing another post – Preparing your cat for their new best friend: Introducing the baby to your cat. And it should come up next week. Follow my blog so you don’t miss it.***
Bottomline is this, try to google ‘cat kills baby’, see if you can find anything. You can find anything on google, but you can’t find this. I tried.
I hear you ask “how about the cat poop? Isn’t there a disease or something for pregnant woman?
Ok, let’s talk about that
We are talking about toxoplasmosis.
What is toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a single-celled parasitic organism that can infect most animals and birds. It is a parasite, it is not a disease. So it’s not air borne. That’s very important to remember that. You have to touch the parasite to get that on you, ok?
How can we catch it?
According to Mayo Clinic,
“you can ‘catch’ toxoplasmosis if you…
- Come into contact with cat feces that contain the parasite.You may accidentally ingest the parasites if you touch your mouth after gardening, cleaning a litter box or touching anything that has come in contact with infected cat feces. Cats who hunt or who are fed raw meat are most likely to harbor T. gondii. (italic mine)
- Eat or drink contaminated food or water. Lamb, pork and venison are especially likely to be infected with T. gondii. Occasionally, unpasteurized dairy products also may contain the parasite. Water contaminated with T. gondii isn’t common in the United States.
- Use contaminated knives, cutting boards or other utensils. Kitchen utensils that come into contact with raw meat can harbor the parasites unless the utensils are washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water.
- Eat unwashed fruits and vegetables. The surface of fruits and vegetables may contain the parasite. To be safe, thoroughly wash all produce, especially any you eat raw.
- Receive an infected organ transplant or transfused blood. In rare cases, toxoplasmosis can be transmitted through an organ transplant or blood transfusion.”
Did you see the italic? You need to ingest the parasites to get infected. That could happen if you touch your mouth after gardening or cleaning the litter box.
So here is the thing:
–> Why do you touch your mouth after cleaning the litter box?
And even if you get rid of your cats, you are still not safe. If you have a garden, other cats can still come into your garden, if you touch the soil then touch your mouth, you can still get infected.
So getting rid of your cat can’t solve the problem, being careful and have common sense is what solve the problem! Also, going back up to the cause of infection – Use contaminated knives, cutting boards or other utensils, eat unwashed fruits and vegetables – are also risk factors. So as long as you are not stopping eating altogether, you STILL need to be careful.
The bottomline is this – WASH YOUR HANDS and BE CAREFUL WITH FOOD PREPARATION!
If you have litter trays at home or if you garden, WEAR GLOVES!
You really shouldn’t be doing litter trays much longer anyway once the bump gets big and starting to be in the way. Get other family members to do the trays.
The crazy thing is, you might not be at risk at all!
If you are infected with toxoplasmosis before, you are already immune it. So you don’t have to worry about getting infected. You already have been!
How do you know if you are immune? Talk to your doctor and midwife.
You can either get the test done before you even get pregnant just to have peace of mind. Or you can do a blood test once you are pregnant. It’s a very simple blood test and then you can be in peace knowing one way or the other.
Another crazy thing is, even HSE tells you not to get rid of the cat!
According to HSE…
“I own a cat. Do I have to give up my cat while pregnant or if I am in another ‘at risk’group?
If you own a cat, there is no need to give up your cat while pregnant, if you are planning to become pregnant or if you are in another ‘at risk’ group, but the following extra precautions can help reduce your risk of exposure to Toxoplasma:
- Provide a litter tray for your cat to minimise utilisation of areas such as garden soil and sandpits
- It is advisable to change the litter tray daily because the parasite does not become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it is shed in cat faeces (italic mine).
- If possible, have someone else change your cats litter box. If you have to change it, wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards.
- Feed your cat commercial dry or canned food. Don’t feed cats raw meat because this can be a source of Toxoplasma infection.
- During your pregnancy try and keep your cat indoors and away from dead animals and birds.
- Prevent cats hunting birds and other prey, e.g. by use of a bell collar.
- Do not get a new cat while you are pregnant.”
Did you see here again my italic?
–>You really shouldn’t have days old cat poop lying around the house. Unless you garden, then it is possible to have old poop. Otherwise, why would you?
And this post on Three Million Dogs sum it up really well. I extract here the bullet points but go there to read the full article to get all the facts.
“6 Facts About Toxoplasmosis That Prove You Shouldn’t Get Rid Of Your Cat When Pregnant
Fact 1: Cats aren’t the only ones infected and capable of transmitting toxoplasmosis.
Fact 2: Not every cat has the risk to become infected with toxoplasmosis.
Fact 3: The chances of your cat transmitting you toxoplasmosis is very low.
Fact 4: Petting your cat or getting scratched or bitten by him won’t give toxoplasmosis.
Fact 5: There are other things that can pass toxoplasmosis onto people.
Fact 6: There are ways to prevent getting toxoplasmosis (whether you have cats or not.)”
If you still need more information, further reading on toxoplasmosis here and here. All scientific facts there with source to original researches. You can’t get more factual than that. No urban myth, no scaremongering, just FACTS.
If there is one thing you take home with you about toxoplasmosis is this:
–> Getting rid of your cat is not your solution…at all.
How about allergies? Will having cat hair lying around cause allergies to babies?
I am not a medical professional. But I do suffer asthma and allergies, so I visit an allergist regularly. (He has already agreed to do a formal interview to add to the post here in the future.) The advice I got from him is, early exposure to animal is actually going to LOWER the risk of future allergies. There are many researches supporting this view now. A quick google search show us this, this, and this. You might want to do your own research. You can also talk to my amazing allergist.
And watch this video…
Photo record of Cat vs Baby
So now, you are happy to know you won’t get some weird disease from your cat, so what will happen after you have the baby? Here is a photo record of what happened to us when we had our baby. The photo record is taken between baby 1 hour old to he is 2 year and 9 months. Get yourself a cup of tea. It is going to be long…
(Disclaimer one more time: every cat is different. I am not suggesting every cat will behave the same. This photo record is to show you what happened to MY cats, MY baby and MY family. Thank you.)
One hour old…
We had a homebirth so the cats have been there the whole process. At one hour old, baby is already in bed with me, we are resting and cat is wondering what was that thing that just came out. Cat Number 2 – Fafa, is nowhere to be seen. As predicted, she went to hide to be away from all the strange sound and noise.
For 2 days, both cats didn’t come near the bedroom. They were scared of the ‘monkey’.
Larmlarm (the relatively brave one) came to check out the baby for the first time. All of this are done under SUPERVISION. I can’t emphasize this enough. USE YOUR COMMON SENSE!
Cat Number 2 Fafa won’t be seen in the bedroom for weeks! So you won’t see her until you scroll down…a lot.
Larmlarm came to touch the baby the first time. Then sit next to him. As you can see, my husband and myself (I am taking the photo) are there to supervise the whole process.
Larmlarm came to the bed to sleep. You can see he kept a distance. He couldn’t be farther away from the baby, he nearly fell off the edge. He was still unsure about the ‘monkey’.
Larmlarm slept a bit closer today. As I mentioned earlier, I WILL NOT be leaving them in the room alone and went off to make tea or something. ALWAYS SUPERVISE.
Husband is back to work, he fell asleep watching video on computer. Everyone was tired. (This is doula Alice speaking: I was watching the baby, and the video! You shouldn’t leave the baby lying like this while adult doze off. Check out Safe Sleep Seven on baby sleeping guideline. )
Larmlarm is getting comfortable with the baby. Fafa still nowhere to be seen.
Larmlarm starts to show friendliness towards the baby. He probably started to wonder if this ‘monkey’ is staying?
We also noticed Larmlarm continued to stay on the far end of the bed so we put up a comfortable pillow for him so he could have his own ‘spot’ as a gesture of reassurance that the monkey is not taking over everything.
Larmlarm definitely started to be more and more curious towards this new member of the family. I think he realised the ‘monkey’ is probably a human..
2 months and a half
Larmlarm started to exhibit similar behaviour towards the baby as if he is one of us.
2 months 3/4
Larmlarm continued to show interest to make friends with the new human.
And finally one day, he showed the first sign of playfulness with the baby.
3 months and a half
Larmlarm continued to enjoy the company of his new friend. Fafa still wouldn’t be anywhere near the baby.
3 months and 3/4
At nearly 4 months since the baby was born, Fafa FINALLY was brave enough to be near the baby. So no, it’s very unlikely she would do any harm to him. See my point?
Larmlarm continued to enjoy the company of his new human…
4 months 3/4
Business as usual…
Then something interesting happened. A customer of mine was stuck in a housing crisis. He bought a house but due to lawyer’s error, he couldn’t move into the house for weeks. So we took on her very friendly cats who are already familiar with babies to stay with us temporarily.
See? Same. No problem.
And Fafa FINALLY came back into the bedroom again…
And the baby started to show sign of interest to the cats as well. You can see he tried to play with them…
and both were shocked when I was spying on them…
At 5 months, Fafa finally tolerated being in close proximity with the baby and didn’t mind when the baby touched her. I was also pleased that my baby started to be a cat lover! Look at the way he admired Fafa?
5 months and 1/4
And then this happened…<3
5 months 3/4
At nearly 6 months, you can see the cats and the baby both really enjoy each other’s company. There was a lot of ‘mutual observation’ – are you the pet or am I the pet? ha!
At this point, you will also have to deal with ‘grabbing’. Babies generally start to have some eye hand coordination at this developmental stage. It’s a great educational opportunity to start them young to teach them to be gentle and respect animal’s boundary, etc. (And this is “mother me” speaking: I also find it a very good opportunity to start the ‘consent talk’ – No no, when someone doesn’t want to be touched, they are allowed to say no and we have to respect that. I am going to raise a boy who understands consent since the very beginning and this is a good opportunity to do that.)
Even Fafa was getting braver and braver and seem to start enjoying the company of this new human.
More grabbing. And I was there to tell the baby to be gentle. Hence, he turned his head.
Fafa wasn’t running away anymore when being grabbed at this stage.
After some coaching, baby seems to understand how to give cat face rub. As you can see on the photo, Larmlarm approved.
7 months and 1/4
Something interesting happened. I had to bring baby with me for one cat sitting job, with the permission of the customer. They have two beautiful friendly Maine Coon who love children. So they had a blast. It was Halloween in case you wonder why the sheep outfit. And you can see on the photo, another interesting development is baby started crawling.
7 months and a half
Crawling was in full on! And there was no stopping them playing together. Of course, I still had to supervise the whole proceeding. Can’t emphasize that enough. And yes, sometimes they played and fell asleep together…
Baby by now was a confirmed cat lover!
7 months and 3/4
Baby started to learn to stand…Larmlarm didn’t seem to mind.
At 8 months, Larmlarm showed grooming behaviour towards the baby the first time.
And Fafa also started to like this human. You can see she was showing playful behaviour here.
Now to answer the question – will the cat try to sleep with the baby? The answer is yes. So again, SUPERVISION! The black and white paw print pyjama pants on the bottom right corner in the photo was me. I was in bed with the both of them the whole time.
8 months and a half
Best friends forever! Isn’t it the most joyful thing to see a child enjoys an animal’s company and vice versa?
See? This is the kind of thing I was talking about when I mentioned accident at the beginning of this post. A cat could be standing on the railing of a cot and accidentally lost his balance. If the baby was sleeping in the cot, I wouldn’t have let Larmlarm continued to stand there. But baby was standing and playing so it was ok. See? Supervision and common sense.
8 months and 3/4
Larmlarm came and checked out the little Santa…haha
9 months and a half
9 months 3/4
10 months and a half
10 months and 3/4
1 year and one month
1 year and 2 months
1 year and a half
Baby..not a baby anymore. Toddler started to take an interest to help out with litter trays…
At this stage, there is not much to talk about really. The toddler understood cats very well, had a general concept of taking care of them and how to interact with them.
When we visited our friend on our holiday, he even helped out with their cat! Here it is him giving Joseph the cat some treats.
Here he is coming along for cat sitting jobs.
2 years and a half
On the photo on the right hand side, if you click on it and zoom in, you will see there is a cat sleeping inside a hiding space. We were at Kassikohvik Nurri – a cat cafe in Estonia. You can see toddler understand very well cat is sleeping and we need to respect their space.
2 years and 9 months
Do I need to say anything about this picture?
So tell me about your stories. Do you have a cat vs baby situation at home? How did you handle that? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you.
Are you expecting a baby and are worried? Do you need advice? Talk to me today!