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Do Cats Know What Babies Are? What Science Has to Say

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Baby and cat sleeping together

As any proud parent of both a cat and a baby, you’re likely to wonder: do cats know what babies are? After all, our furry friends seem to have an affinity for the little ones. As many experts have discovered, the answer is yes. Cats do indeed know what babies are, and they often respond to them in very distinct ways.

When you strip away all the theories and get down to it, tests reveal that cats associate babies with either small humans, something to protect, or both. For more insight into this curious connection, let’s look at some evidence behind cats and their recognition of babies.

How Do Cats Feel About Babies: What the Science Says

Studies have revealed that cats respond differently to babies than they do to adults or older children. Observations show that cats tend to become more alert and often display increased levels of curiosity when in the presence of an infant. Some cats even become more affectionate toward the baby, often in an attempt to provide comfort and protection.

This research suggests that cats recognize babies as something small and vulnerable that needs to be protected. This has been further supported by experiments that show cats exhibiting increased levels of vigilance when a baby is around.

In other words, cats seem to understand that babies are something special and require special attention. This can be seen in their reactions to the presence of a baby, as well as their tendency to curl up close to infants or follow them around closely. All this evidence points toward cats knowing what babies are and responding accordingly.

Cat and baby
Image Credit: Aynur_sib, Shutterstock

How Do Cats React to Newborn Babies: Separating Fact from Fiction

You’ve probably heard at some point in your life that cats are a threat to the well-being and safety of infants. Old wives’ tales exist that warn of cats sitting on newborn babies’ faces to smother them out of jealousy.

The truth of the matter, however, is that it’s very unlikely that a cat would purposefully attempt to harm a baby. As mentioned earlier, cats tend to be more attentive and affectionate toward babies, not aggressive or threatening in any way.

In light of this revelation, where did this myth come from? There are apparently historical accounts of cats smothering newborns, but the truth seems to be far less sinister. Most likely, cats were attracted to the warmth and smell of the baby, so they snuggled up close out of curiosity or comfort.

Cat and baby
Image Credit: Sharomka, Shutterstock

But because newborns are physically incapable of turning over, it’s much more likely that they were just stuck in an uncomfortable position than that the cat was actively trying to harm them.

With that said, it is very dangerous to leave a baby unattended with a cat, as cats can be unpredictable and may accidentally bite or scratch an infant. But even more importantly, there is a potential risk of accidental smothering due to the baby’s inability to move and a cat’s proclivity to snuggle up next to anything warm.

The Bottom Line

Cats do indeed know what babies are, and they often react in very specific ways when around infants. This can be both comforting and a little bit alarming at the same time. It’s up to you as its owner to make sure that your cat and baby coexist in a safe and harmonious environment.

When done right, cats and babies can form a special bond that will last for many years to come. So, rest assured knowing that your feline companion knows what a baby is and how to react around it!

Featured Image Credit: Sharomka, Shutterstock

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