I've heard from three very reputable physicians, two of which are pediatricians, that cats can cause respiratory problems in babies. We are obviously concerned because we have three cats and a 3 month old baby. If the risk of respiratory illness is real and significant, as the physicians have suggested, we are considering finding other and better homes for the cats.
That being said, the internet does not appear to be a good source for authoritative opinion on this topic, with search results typically returning the ramblings of those with no qualifications to give an expert opinion or at the other extreme complex scientific studies the conclusion of which isn't particularly clear.
It looks like the risks with cats are:
Here's a choice quote "Cats release an allergen, fel d 1, into the environment which can provoke and worsen asthma. Similarly, dogs, too, release an antigen. These are two of the commonest antigens involved in childhood allergic diseases. 66% of children sensitised to cat antigen have been found to have either asthma, eczema, or rhinitis."
I'd like to have an authoritative reference about what risks are associated with keeping cats and having babies, and what the 'level' (if you will) of that risk is.
Thank you for reading.
asked 29 Nov '10, 15:57
You don't give a specific citation for the claim that cats and dogs increase the chances of allergies. But there are reputable (i.e., scientific, peer-reviewed) studies that claim exactly the opposite. Here's one reference from a reputable web site.
More generally, a lot of people subscribe to the hygiene hypothesis, which posits that increased allergy and asthma rates today might be due to not having enough challenges to our immune system -- i.e., having children in too sterile an environment -- and there is increasing research starting to back this up. See the link earlier in this paragraph for further references and explanation.
answered 30 Nov '10, 07:27
Here's a link from Sick Kids in Toronto, it's about as authoritative as I could get AboutKidsHealth Children Pets and Allergies
Basically, if your child is prone to Asthma, then yes, having pets in your house could make the problem much worse, but if they arn't, it's not a problem at all (and may help prevent allergies). Unfortunately, the medical community has no idea what causeses some people to develope allergies or asthma (other than a genetic tendency) so absolute numbers are impossible to come by.
I think a really relevant quote from the link is;
So, I would say that unless your baby is diagnosed with Asthma, you don't need to get rid of your cats.
I'd also like to add, that if your child is diagnosed with Asthma, wait until you see a Respirologist and have the type of Asthma determined before you give away your pets and start ripping up carpets and doing major renovations on your house. My second oldest was diagnosed with Asthma when he was 3 and we were told that that was what we would need to do. After he saw a Repirologist it was determined that he had what is known as "Event triggered Asthma" which meant that his Asthma wasn't triggered by allergies, but by viral infections and other than nagging him to wash his hands no major changes were needed in his enviornment. He compeletely grew out of his symptoms by the time he was 10.
answered 30 Nov '10, 14:39
I have a cat and two kids. We got the cat when the first was 2 and the second had not yet been conceived. So far, neither child has had any health problems due to a cat in the house.
In addition, my husband and I both grew up with dogs and cats, neither of us nor any of our siblings have eczema or allergies to animals. The only dander allergy in the family is a brother-in-law who is allergic to cats, but he grew up in a house without cats so they can't be the cause.
Finally, when I was pregnant with our second child, I talked to our vet about the risk of toxoplasmosis. He said that if we scoop the litter box daily the risk is practically nil.