A common concern among parents-to-be is whether or not having a cat in the home during pregnancy or after the birth of a baby is safe. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advises that parents "Don't succumb to these old wives' tales. Knowing the facts will help provide ways to safeguard both foetus and feline." Precautions can be taken to avoid baby deaths caused by cats.
Expectant mothers are advised to avoid changing a cat's litter box. Toxoplasmosis is transmitted through the faeces of an infected cat, and exposure to the parasite can cause a plethora of problems. Miscarriage and stillbirth can occur in mothers who are exposed to the infection. Other birth defects can also occur, including loss of senses, such as deafness or blindness. Epilepsy can also originate from toxoplasmosis exposure.
Along with avoidance of litter boxes, pregnant women should use gloves when doing gardening activities, as many cats use gardens as a litter box. Cats should not be fed meat that is not cooked or is undercooked. After handling uncooked meat, the hands should be washed before contact with the mucus membranes of the eyes.
A cat's adaptation to a new baby is largely dependent upon the cat's personality. Cats that generally have trouble adapting to new situations are most likely to have problems with a newborn. During pregnancy, tricks such as playing recordings of baby noises and rubbing baby lotion on the hands before handling the cat can help them become accustomed to an infant's presence. Early nursery preparation will give a cat time to explore, and for parents to set boundaries for the cat. Being careful to avoid making areas such as the crib and changing table comfortable nap spots for a cat will keep them from claiming such spots as their own. Prior to the birth of a child (at least one month prior, as recommended by the ASPCA), parents can cover a sheet of cardboard with double sided tape and place it on a no-cat area. Cats generally avoid sticky surfaces.
When Cat Meets Baby
Cats should be introduced to an infant in a quiet room free of disturbances. As the cat becomes comfortable, other family members and visitors can come into the room carefully. Cats that are not social will generally retreat to a quieter area.
"Stealing Baby's Breath"
A cat does not have the ability to suck air from an infant's lungs, however, a newly born baby cannot roll or move it's head enough to avoid suffocation. Cats should be discouraged from climbing into a crib as a precaution. When a baby is asleep, the door to the room should be shut to keep pets out. Nursing mothers should allow cats to investigate without encouraging the cat to lie too close to the baby.
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