Parents are being encouraged to keep their pets during pregnancy and beyond after new findings show around half have concerns about cats and children, yet few seek advice on the topic.
Survey results reveal that 1 in 12 parents gave up their beloved pets because they were expecting a baby or had young children, with two thirds regretting this decision.
Supported by Emmerdale star and mum-of-two Samantha Giles, the Cats Protection campaign offers advice to parents on how to keep their children, themselves and their cats safe and happy while also highlighting the benefits of pets in families.
Samantha, whose children are five and nine, explained: “I am a huge supporter of the benefit of cats both to a calm, relaxed pregnancy and on children learning to care for and look after an animal,” said Samantha, whose children are five and nine. “I remember when we brought our first baby daughter home we put her down in the lounge so our cats could have a sniff, which they did. Our cats were fairly elderly then, too, and they accepted and loved both our children.”
“Obviously one has to be sensible and not leave a baby alone with any animal and we made sure we shut the door on Eve’s bedroom so that the cats couldn’t get into her cot.
“I’d definitely encourage people not to give up their cats when they are pregnant because there are so many benefits to having a pet in the family.”
Cats Protection receives hundreds of calls each year from people wanting to give up their cat for reasons related to children or babies, so the charity is keen to dispel myths and help keep cats firmly in the family.
Advice for cat-loving parents and expectant parents includes:
- Play baby sounds to get your cat used to them (available here via Cats Protection).
- Start wearing disposable gloves and an apron when cleaning litter trays, or get someone else to do it for you
- Introduce your cat to the new baby equipment such as furniture and prams but don’t let them climb on it and keep it off-limits
- Brush up on your knowledge of cat body-language so you can recognise signs of stress when your baby arrives
- Make sure your cat has lots of hiding places to escape to if they feel stressed
- Introduce your cat to your baby gradually. Don’t force interaction or leave your baby and cat alone together
- Try to make time to give your cat daily attention – this will help relax them and you