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How Do I Give My Cat Space From My Rough Toddler?

Today’s column is brought to you by Gaea Stephens, an expert in the art of living with a toddler. Gaea is an (almost) 14 year old cat who lives in the Southern VT/NH area. She lives with her human parents, their 2 1/2 year old daughter and an enormous dog. She spends her days sleeping, eating, loving and plotting.

gaeaQ: Dear Gaea,
My toddler tends to play rough with our cat– tugging her tail, squeezing her, etc. The cat takes it like a champ, but I want to make sure she’s as happy as she can be. What can I do to ensure that my cat has ample space from my terrorizing toddler?

A: Sounds like you have a pretty great kitty and a toddler brimming with love for her. Just like kittens, human children show their love through rough play. What seems mean to a human adult can be seen as a sign of love for a toddler. And sometimes, love hurts!

Make sure that your feline friend has plenty of places to take respite from the rambunctious toddler. In my house my human parents allow me to hide in their room if I need some space. They have also provided vertical real estate for me– perches high enough that the tot can’t reach but I can still feel like part of the family.

Trust me when I tell you that your kitty will openly express her disdain if the kiddo takes things too far. I usually give a quick claw-free tap or a loud vocalization as a warning. I also show other signs such as flattening my ears and ceasing all purring. I have even been known to fluff up my tail and hiss a little when she gets really crazy. That is when the humans step in and remind their little one to be gentle with me. More often than not though, I really enjoy my little person’s company and affection. 

What’s the Deal with Litter Boxes and Pregnant Ladies?

Eyeball helping with the dishes
Eyeball helping with the dishes

Q: Dear Nora,
I’ve heard that pregnant women shouldn’t clean litter boxes. If there is something in cat litter that is bad for pregnant women, couldn’t it be bad for everyone? Help! We want healthy cat litter for the whole family! 

A: It’s not the litter that is the problem, it’s what you are scooping out of the litter. Cats (particularly those who go outside or eat raw meat– including mice caught inside) can carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite lives in our poop, and can be transmitted to you when you scoop the box.

In a healthy and non-pregnant person, toxoplasmosis (though sometimes more serious) normally only causes cold or flu-like symptoms. In a pregnant woman, however, the parasite can transmit to the fetus and cause a more serious reaction– even a miscarriage.

It’s great if you have someone else who can scoop the box while you’re pregnant. If that’s not possible, you can wear gloves while scooping. Always wash your hands well afterwards, and never put your grimy hands to your mouth before you wash them. As for your cats, you can greatly minimize their chances of spreading this parasite by keeping them indoors and feeding them a diet of canned or commercial dried cat food (never raw or undercooked meat).