Can a cat suck a baby’s breath?

Naptime

For hundreds of years cats have been accused of killing babies. The reasons vary over time, but still today there are many people who fear having a cat in the same home as a baby. 

So can a cat steal your baby’s breath, and should you get rid of your moggy before becoming a parent?

The short answer is, No.

Why do we fear the cat?

Cats were once considered evil, even now there are superstitions about black cats bringing bad luck. During the 13th and 14th century it was believed a cat could suck the soul out of a baby. Their associations with witches and vampires reinforced a notion of a cat as mysterious beings with the potential to suck life force out of the most innocent and pure.

As people became more rational and accepted the unlikeness of a cat having magical or evil properties, the myth transformed into one where the cat would suck not the soul but the breath from a baby. Supposedly they would smell milk on the baby’s face and be attracted to its mouth, where they would steadily suck the smell, and with it the breath, out of the baby until it was dead.

More recently cats have been blamed for smothering babies to death, as in a Dec 2000 case where a cat was found sitting on the face of a deceased 6 week infant. The cat was later exonerated and the death officially put down to SIDS.

Our irrational for fear of cats around babies has matured to a more reasoned one but still holds a paranoid place in our hearts. The cat as a threat to a baby is seen more as something inherently suspicious about the nature of the cat, rather than as a measurable risk.

The truth

  • Cats are not evil or magical. The ‘soul’, or life-force, of your child cannot be sucked out by your cat.
  • Cats are not naturally attracted to the smell of milk. This in itself is a cat myth. Cats will prefer water to milk. Even if they do like the smell of milk and were attracted to the baby, they categorically cannot suck the breath at all let alone enough to kill. There is absolutely no evidence of this having happened, ever.
  • Cats are attracted to warmth. A cat may seek out a warm sleeping baby as a place to sleep. Though there is little evidence of cats sitting on babies’ faces and smothering them, this is a small but potential risk. 

Should you get rid of your cat?

  • No, it is perfectly fine to have a cat and a baby in the same home. 
  • Because of the unlikely but small possibility that your cat might snuggle with your baby and smother her, you should not allow your cat to be in a room with your baby unsupervised. This goes for all pets, regardless of their soul-sucking potential.
  • There are many things that could be a danger for your baby if you don’t exercise proper caution, none of which should be avoided altogether (baths, older children, cars, window blinds, food…!).
  • Keep your cat, just keep your cat away from your baby until she is old enough to interact with the cat safely.

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3 Comments

Filed under General, Tips and tricks, Weird and Wonderful

3 responses to “Can a cat suck a baby’s breath?

  1. Motu

    I completely agree my friend!
    My cat will climb up on my chest at night while I am laying in bed and he is heavy. I can feel the weight of him and it is certainly harder to breathe. Any baby would quickly succumb to this regardless if on his back or stomach. Actually on his back may give the baby the ability to push the cat off, this may explain why it happens less in this position.The old wives tale has been around for ages for a reason. It doesn’t magically steal the baby’s breath rather it constricts the chest cavity making it harder to breathe. I’ve had my cat for several years and this happens regularly. I have always felt this way. Your reply has inspired me to inform some SIDS blogs. How this connection hasn’t been made yet to at least inquire about the ratio of cats in the homes of SIDS cases eludes me!

  2. Nannysavvy , you are wrong , Wrong , Wrong ! .Cats ” DO ” steal babies breath ! . I witnessed it myself ! .I snuck up to the bedroom door to check on my napping newborn ,and looking thru the cracked door , to my horror , saw the cat sitting on my sons chest with its nose almost in my sons mouth ! the cat was still but his chest was expanding and contracting very fast ! , the cat was stealing my sons breath ! .I am sure I saved my sons life that day ! , YES , Cats DO steal babies breath ! .maybe they are the cause of S.I.D.S. ! ! !

  3. Pingback: Holy Matrimony, Batman! | the post calvin

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