Can the Cat Stay When a Baby's on the Way?

Pregnant woman petting cat
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Q: I'm getting contradictory information on my cats now that we're expecting our first child. And it all seems credible. My doctor says I can keep my cats as long as I'm careful and my boyfriend handles the litter box. But I've seen other doctors who disagree and also caution that cats hate babies and will harm them, if they can, out of spite. Cat websites say keep the cat, but I'm not sure they have my baby's interest as top priority. I'm not sure you do, either, but I'll ask anyway. I want to keep my cats, after all. — T.I., via e-mail

A: Your own physician is up on the current thinking in this area. In fact, you don't need to find a new home for your pet when a baby's on the way, no matter what well-meaning relatives, friends or anonymous internet advisers may say to the contrary. Cats do not maliciously smother or suck the breath out of babies, and the litter box risk can indeed be managed.

The myth that cats have it in for babies probably came from their natural curiosity to investigate a new addition to the family, coupled with the tragedy of what's commonly known as crib death. We can easily understand how, in generations past, people may have seen a cat in the crib — perhaps sniffing at a baby's milk-scented breath — and later found a dead child and then tried to find an explanation for the loss by linking the two events.

We now know there's no connection. Still, common sense still dictates that no animal be left unattended with an infant or small child. And, of course, before the baby arrives, safety dictates that someone other than the expectant mom clean out that litter box to reduce the risk of birth defects caused by the parasites that may be in the cat's feces.

As our own Dr. Marty Becker says: "Get rid of the risk, and keep the pet." It's good advice, as is taking your cats to the vet to make sure their own health is in tip-top shape to further protect your family.

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