A campaign has been launched today to encourage parents to keep their pets during pregnancy and beyond following new findings that show around half have concerns about cats and children yet few seek advice on the topic.
Run by the charity Cats Protection, #KidsandKitties urges people not to give up their pets as survey results reveal that 1 in 12 parents did so 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 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.
“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 ran the survey to find out what concerns parents have about keeping cats in the family and these were the key findings:
- Over half (54%) of respondents who owned a cat while expecting a child had concerns regarding their cat and their pregnancy. The top concerns were handling cat litter (77%) and toxoplasmosis (66%)
- Just under half (49%) of respondents had concerns regarding their cat(s) and children with the top two involving the cat(s) scratching/injuring their child (61%) and the cat(s) climbing into the carrier/cot/pushchair with the child (50%)
- Less than a third (30%) of respondents sought advice regarding cat(s) and pregnancy/children.
- Nearly a third (31%) of expectant parents were told that they should give up their cat, with two thirds (67%) receiving that advice from friends or family
- 1 in 12 (8%) of respondents gave up their cat because they were expecting a baby or had young children. The majority (63%) regretted this decision
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.
Daniel Cummings, Cats Protection’s Behaviour Officer said: “There seems to be a lot of conflicting advice out there about cats, pregnancy and children so we’re keen to stress that you don’t need to give up your cat if you are pregnant or have young children.
“With just some simple considerations, cats and children may live in harmony together and this can bring huge benefits such as helping kids to learn responsibility and compassion for living things.”
Cats Protection’s advice for cat-loving parents and expectant parents includes:
- Play baby sounds to get your cat used the them (available at www.cats.org.uk/kids-and-kitties/baby.mp3)
- 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 (visit www.cats.org.uk/behaviour for info)
- 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
For the full range of advice visit: www.cats.org.uk/kids-and-kitties