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We have 2 cats, are expecting our first, so what precautions do we need to take?
Q: We are expecting our first child any day now. We have two cats and want to know what precautions we need to take. Do you have any tips on keeping the cats away from the baby, out of the cot/bassinet, etc. I am really worried.
Amber Cottage Grove
A: Amber, it’s good to be cautious with pets and babies. Rarely, cats can scratch and bite children; they can also carry fleas and a few rare infectious diseases. But don’t be overly worried about stories you may have heard—for example, that your cats will lie across your baby’s face and smother him; or they’ll hear the baby’s cry and think a strange cat is in the house and then try to harm the baby. Animal experts consider these stories unfounded superstitions.

You never know how pets will react to a new baby in the household. It is likely that your cats will be curious and possibly a little jealous about the new addition to your family, just as older siblings would be. While you don’t need to be excessively worried or give your cats away, you do want to make sure your baby and the cats are safe. It will help to take the following precautions:
  • Make sure your cats are healthy, both physically and emotionally. Check with your veterinarian to make sure they’re up-to-date on their shots and free of diseases. Give your cats lots of attention when the baby arrives. Try to keep the cats’ routines for feeding, play and sleeping as normal as possible. And observe them closely for any signs of distress such as urinating on the carpet, hiding, or aggression.

  • Always supervise the interactions between your cats and your baby. Slowly introduce the baby to the cats by allowing them to smell the baby blanket or check out the baby while you’re holding him. Never leave your baby alone with the cats. Keep the baby’s room off-limits to the cats by shutting the door and using a nursery monitor, or installing a screen door. Some people cover cots and bassinets with netting to keep cats out.

  • As your baby grows older, teach him to be gentle with the cats. When he starts to reach out to grab the cats’ tails, teach him how to pat the cats nicely. Also teach him not to bother the cats when they’re eating or sleeping, and not to hold them when they want to run away.

  • When your baby begins crawling and walking, keep the litter box out of his reach. Also, after cleaning the litter box, be sure to wash your hands well to prevent spreading germs to your baby.

  • If your cat has fleas, ask the veterinarian about non-toxic flea control measures. Since babies are small and developing rapidly, they are more susceptible to poisoning, so reconsider your use of dangerous chemicals.
With the proper precautions, your cats and your baby will develop a long, loving relationship.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician