Some cats like to cuddle with sleeping babies. There are several natural reasons why cats do this: The crib is interesting, high, and cozy, all things cats love. The baby often smells milky, and is warm; more things cats love. So could a cat, and would a cat, actually smother a sleeping baby?
I have never heard of such a death, and it didn’t seem likely, but I decided to do further investigation.
On the MythBusters website, they explored the myth of cats sucking the breath out of a baby, and killing it, yet note there have been no cases of babies being killed in such a way by a cat.
The Snopes website also offers no cases of babies being killed by cats.
In fact there have been no cases where cats have been linked to actually smothering, and killing, a human infant. Perhaps the myth started as a way to explain Crib Death, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Perhaps there were times when distraught mothers (suffering from postpartum depression) smothered their own child and blamed it upon the cat, thus starting a myth.
It should be noted that while a cat will not smother a baby, an affectionate cat might scratch it, as when cats get ready to sleep they often use their claws/paws to kneed the area they are about to rest upon. This can be easily prevented by keeping the cat out of the babies room when it naps, and shutting the door. Some people think declawing is a good idea, but declawing often results in cats that bite.
Pregnant woman are often told to get rid of their cat out of a minute risk of toxoplasmosis (a parasite that may be present in cat feces, only if a cat consumes a recently infected mouse, and is also present in some raw meat). This is a very small risk, easily avoided by having somebody else clean the litter, or by the woman wearing gloves while doing so, or by not allowing the cat outside where it can catch mice.
Finally it should be noted that while no cat has ever smothered a baby it is not uncommon for tom cats (unneutered males) to kill kittens in an effort to bring their mother back into heat.
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