Cats will not suck the breath from you

While I was researching articles regarding newborn care and introducing cats to newborn babies I came across one of Cecil’s commentaries. URL:

The author of this page managed to contribute more fear to an already potent topic among prenant women such as myself.

I am a cat owner and my husband and I have had our four cats for years prior to bringing a newer addition to the family. My cats are absolutely terrified of children in general and always hide when friends and relatives bring their children over to our home. I anticipate that they will probably behave the same way when my husband and I bring home our baby. I think the only interaction my cats will have with our newborn will be running away and hiding from it.

However, Cecil’s comments indicated that cats are responsible for suffocating infants and spreading bacteria. I just wanted the opportunity to post a message to all cat lovers who are expecting children or have newborn babies:

Cats and babies can coexist!

Please check out these reliable web sites indicating correct introductory care for both parties and an explanation of the myth and lore that cats will suck a newborn babies breath:


Our cat co-existed perfectly well with both our kids. As you suggest, she was not at all interested in sharing sleeping space with a wriggly, noisy, smelly “little person,” although she was intensely curious about what kind of creature we had brought into the house when our first child arrived. We have pictures of the cat perched on a chair above the bassinet, in a posture that suggests a combination of possessiveness/guardianship, and mild curiosity.

When our first child learned to use a walker, the cat actually learned to play tag with her. The cat would run around the living room with Daughter chasing her and laughing hysterically. The cat would let her get just close enough to be tempting, but never got hit or run over. When the cat got tired of the game, she simply went into another room that Daughter couldn’t get to in the walker.

The cat did start sleeping with Daughter when Daughter was well into, if not past, toddlerhood, but by that point, there was no danger of suffication to either of them.

I had multiple cats when I was growing up, and my siblings and I all lived through it somehow…

Welcome to the SDMB, akinney, but I can’t say I agree with your post. “Cats do not kill all newborns” isn’t the same statement as “cats do not kill newborns,” and if you’re the statistical anomaly on the wrong side of the ledger it’s little consolation that some dude on the internet’s cats got on fine with his babies. Cecil said nothing about getting rid of your cats when the stork visits. He said be careful because they like to sleep on top of warn rhytmic things, like babies. Be careful, that’s all. There shouldn’t be any controversy in that.


I don’t object to Cecil’s much, but you are talking about a negligible occurrence. Dogs kill more babies than cats. Try googling both “baby killed by dog” and “baby killed by cat”. So yes lets be careful of something that doesn’t happen. It is a good idea to keep the Cats out of the crib but that because of allergies and potential of Hairballs be coughed up and maybe even a scratch.
Family cats and dogs don’t normally cause harm to babies. It is very rare for even dogs to do so. I yet to see a story about a cat. This is an urban legend only.
See for Snopes debunking.
If you read all the way through, you’ll parents are a larger danger (literally) then cats.
Please put this tired legend and false reformatting to sleep once and for all.

Cecil does not like cats.

This is the only explanation I can think of for that column, and I’ve seen evidence elsewhere in his columns, somewhere. (Something about whether drinking milk is good for you–I believe he said “who cares what cats like?”)

Ordinary cats do not kill newborns. Of course, if you’ve got a she-devil who turned herself into a killer cat expressly for the purpose all bets are off, but how likely is that in the grand scheme of things?

Or here , perhaps?

Cat’s cannot “suck”. They aren’t built for it. Look at their snoots, there is no way a cat can do anything like that but breath in. Bite? Well, thats another thing. But why would a cat bite a baby? More likely go to sleep on the poor thing’s face and (unintentionaly) smother him. Or her.

My only cat/baby experience was when a newborn visited together with parents, and the kitty was curious. When it came time for the baby to nap, we made a little baby retainer out of bath towels, and let little bit nap on my queen sized bed. A short while later, we noticed that Max was missing and I looked for him. He was spooned up next to the baby, paw across her, eyes closed and purring.


One of my cats just moved in one winter, obviously a stray. From very early on, he slept on my pillow, curled around my head. I frequently waken up to remove a tail from a nostril, or a paw from my mouth. He’s a big clumsy affectionate boy, and my ex used to joke that he had been tossed out of his previous home for smothering the baby…

I’m reminded of a treasured family snapshot of Baby Doug’s First Xmas: a touching tableau depicting cherubic squirming Baby, adoring hair-spray-helmeted Mama (hey, it was 1966), and at the right of the frame, regally poised, we-are-not-amused Siamese Kitty, staring daggers at the little usurper (me).

Kitty, a total attention ho by my parents’ accounting, quickly began refusing food, shedding like mad, and, eventually, slowly cooking her insides under a hot radiator. She was a basket case, and was soon put down to save her any further gestures of martyrdom.

I was seriously hoping that my cats would smear themselves upon my new babies’ mouths and suck the breath out of them.

I tried, honestly I TRIED to encourage them.

Alas, the kids remain. And the cats too for that matter. :rolleyes:

Our cat, Maggie, insisted on sleeping with MilliCal. She managed to get into her crib, even after we put a protective cover over the top. (This cover gave a complete seal, all the way around, and the cat could not have gotten under it. But if we left the zippered panel on the top open even a little, we’d wake up the next morning to find her there, curled up at MilliCal’s feet. To this day, we don’t know how she did it.)

Maggie clearlt regarded MilliCal as Her Kitten. She would lie on the edge of the Ottoman and watch her on the floor. She would alert us if MilliCal cried. She slept with her every chance she got.

It shocked the hell out of her when MilliCal suddenly pulled herself upright using the Ottoman and stood, shakily, facing her on her own level.

Unfortunately, cancer took Maggie years ago. But Clarence, who we got afterwards, jumps into bed with her at bedtime every night. And has put up with an amazing amount of avuse.

From what I can say, the Snopes article and the Straight Dope article are saying the same thing.

From the Snopes article: “It is possible a cat might lie across the face of a sleeping child and thus upon extremely rare instances accidentally cause a death”

From the Straight Dope article: a cat “might unwittingly suffocate the child.”

Where’s the difference in the two articles? Cecil Adams is not saying that a cat will “suck the breath” out of a baby.

You’ll see from the many replies that only the OP took issue with Cecil at all and compared to Snopes Cecil seems more accepting of the Cat suffocation theory. Usually Cecil will cite a case where it actually happened. In Snopes, she is allowing the possibility but basically dismissed that it has ever happened and stressed that they are in far more danger from their own parents and waterbeds.

For what it is worth both my Mom (she is now 72) and my Brother in Law mentioned this threat to us seriously when my wife was pregnant. My wife and I provided counter proof and were guilty of letting both Baby and cats to sleep in our bed. I was nervous about rolling over on top.