How many of us call Kitty our “baby?” We love these special creatures, make them part of our lives, and they sleep on our pillow and live in our hearts. But what happens when a new “baby”--a human infant--enters the picture? Will Kitty get her tail in a twist? How will the cat react? What about you? Suddenly those big teeth, sharp claws and her penchant for napping on laps give you pause. Your own parents or inlaws might express concerns or even dire predictions about suffocation dangers, diseases and unsanitary conditions. Do you get rid of the cat? I certainly hope not! Did you know that raising infants with cats and dogs drastically reduces their chance of developing pet allergies? There’s a wonderful book, “Parenting with Pets” by Christine Hamer and Margaret Hevel (Book Publishers Network) that discusses the many health, emotional and other benefits. In fact, you can take steps to smooth the transition for both the cat, the safety of your baby, and everyone’s peace of mind. While there are real dangers to unborn infants from a disease called toxoplasmosis that cats can carry and spread, in most cases your baby is already protected. Here’s why. Most people in the United States have already been exposed to this disease, from eating undercooked meat, but never have any problems. Once exposed, that means your unborn infant will be protected. You can ask your doctor to run a blood test to see. Even if you have not been exposed, chances are your cats would not give you the disease. Toxoplasmosis doesn’t cause problems for most cats, so you wouldn’t know they’re carriers. When transmitted from cats, it’s usually from a litter box. Therefore, having somebody else clean the box protects you from exposure. As for the cat “sucking the breath” from an infant--give me a break! That’s one of those old wive’s tales, a myth that never seems to go away. Cats do like warm places to sleep, so you’ll want to supervise kitty around the baby. There also are steps you can take to help introduce the cat to your new bundle of joy. There are three recent Pet Peeves radio shows that offer some terrific tips about pets and your children. Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant, discusses cat issues, and Jennifer Shyrock, founder of “Dogs & Storks” program, has great tips on what a true d*g lover should do.
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