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Norwich Bulletin - 5/8/2005

Keep The Cat And The Baby

I hate the phone calls that start with - I have an older cat and just had a baby…. It usually means the people are looking to get rid of the cat because of foolish superstitions or because they are not willing to put in the time to make the whole family, (Parents, baby and cat), come together.

Helping Paws is not the organization to call because we know you can work things out with just a little bit of effort. We do not take personal pets and we believe that the family is responsible for their pet - not a rescue organization.

A new baby is a time of joy and should be for everyone, including the family feline. It should not mean that one family member gets displaced so a new one can come in. The truth is that pregnant women, cats and newborns can safely live together. You just need to have a little common sense and some book smarts.

Avoiding risks is the first step to take when you are pregnant and have a cat. There is no reason to stay away from the cat, but it makes sense to stay away from the litterbox while you are carrying. Toxoplasmosis is extremely rare, but it does exist. It is a parasitic protozoa that infects cats, humans and other species.

Cats usually have antibodies built up against the protozoa, but they can shed eggs until their immune system builds up those antibodies. Once they develop their immunity, the protozoa is no longer effective and there is no further need for worry. But, there is really no way to know if your cat is in the process of building up its immunity to toxo or not - and so you need to be careful. Exposure for you is easily preventable.

The protozoa take up to five days after leaving the cat to become infective, so you simply need to make sure you scoop the litterbox daily (which everyone should be doing anyway). If you do not have a partner who is willing to take care of the litterbox while you are pregnant, simply wear plastic gloves and change the litterbox daily. This was there is no chance of infection.

Most doctors are now aware that there is almost no threat to a pregnant person who has a cat - so, what should you do if you have one of the few unenlightened doctors who still insist on you getting rid of your pet? Get a new doctor, of course!

Another risk for new parents, is worms. This too, is easily taken care of by a rigorous deworming program for pets who are living with children under seven years of age. Roundworms live and reproduce in animals' intestines (dogs, cats, etc.) They can migrate through the human body and end up in unusual places in the human child. So, by following a deworming program, you are ensuring the safety of your kids and your pets.

Since a new baby means lots of changes in the home, there are certain things to do to prepare your cat for all these changes. Bring in a blanket with the a baby's smells on it (from the hospital) before you bring the actual baby home. This is a great way for your cat (or dog for that matter) to get a clue that there is another person in the house.

Some cats have no problems at all accepting the newcomer, while others may get depressed and stop eating, or start eliminating outside the litterbox. These are stress related behaviors that can be changed in a relatively short time. DO NOT GET RID OF THE POOR CAT. It will only traumatize it even more. Simply give the cat some attention. Make time for a play period each day and let your pet be the center of attention again at least once a day.

The myth that a cat will suffocate a sleeping baby is just that - a myth. It's not just babies and cats should not be left together unattended - all animals and babies need to be supervised. That's just good common sense. A cat can continue to be a great companion for the adult family members and babies and children love the feel of soft fur on their skin. While you cat should not have access to the crib, it is certainly fine to allow kitty and baby to interact together. This is the way to keep everyone in the family together!

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