Is It True That Cats Will Steal a Baby's Breath?

cat wrapped in blanket

You’ve probably heard many common tales about cats. Cats are revered, or feared in some way in many different cultures around the world. Whether a popular superstition or an old wive’s tales, cats have been known to have nine lives, be the messengers of deities, the omens of dark forces, and don’t get us started with the poor fate of black cats being almost globally considered bad luck — probably the most popular myth about cats which sadly means the adoption rates for black cats trail far behind cats of another color.

Just behind the superstition surrounding black cats, one of the most common old wive’s tales that people hear about cats is that they have the ability to steal a baby’s breath and potentially kill them. Is this true? Well of course, any animal or human certainly has it within their power to cause harm to an infant, but this myth is often presented in a way that makes it sound as if it were a common, purposeful occurrence and not a extremely rare, if not almost unheard of type of accident.

So where did the myth about cats stealing babies come from?

Well centuries ago, there was a articled in a publication called the Annual Register, which was an annual culmination of the year’s notable events. The article was centered around an 18 month old found dead near Plymouth. According to the coroner on the case, the child died due to the “cat sucking its breath, thereby occasioning a strangulation.” Since there weren’t a huge variety of 24/7 networks, blogs, magazines, and other news sources to digest in those times like we have today, it would only take one such incident to enshrine an unfortunate child death — which might not have had anything to do with the cat whatsoever — as a cautionary tale that would go on for centuries later.

Beyond this, cats are often associated with witchcraft, sorcery, and other dark magic. It was thought that if trouble was afoot and there was a cat nearby, then the cat must have been a witch’s familiar, charged to do their bidding and cause destruction, or even bring about death.

Cats are Safe for Babies, and the Data Agrees

Scientifically, however, the data simply doesn’t agree with this myth(s). There is absolutely no reason to believe that your baby is in danger from a reasonably sized and non-aggressive cat. And while it’s possible that a cat could find itself comfortable on the breathing passages of a sleeping infant, and accidentally suffocate the child, this is an easily preventable problem by ensuring anything beyond the size of a kitten is kept separated from the child while sleeping, particularly if unsupervised. And if you happen to notice a cat’s fascination with your child’s mouth, this is no cause for alarm. Think about it, cat’s love milk and a baby is likely to have milk still on their breath or mouth. Perfectly fine.

So if there was ever any question of whether or not you should raise a baby around cats, rest assured that cats are not plotting to “steal your baby’s breath.” Now there are indeed some recommended precautions you may wish to take if you are pregnant and/or bringing home an infant in the next months, but worrying about whether your cat is going to be intentionally hostile or dangerous to your child shouldn’t be one of them.

What are some common myths that you hear about cats? Is this why some of your friends and family don’t want to be around your cat? Let us know in the comments below!