Myths: Animals & Health

1. A cat will suck the breath out of an infant.

Fact: There has never been a case where a cat has suffocated an infant in this manner. Cats seek warmth and comfort, and curling up next to a baby meets both of those needs. However, a large cat could press up against a small infant’s face and hamper its breathing. For this reason, it’s best to keep cats out of the nursery.

2. A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s

Fact: People once believed that a dog’s saliva was antiseptic and had healing properties. Today we know that dog saliva contains its own population of bacteria and other infectious organisms. People have come down with salmonella poisoning after receiving a dog lick to the face. There’s a reason for the term “dog breath.” People with weakened immune systems and young children probably should not have direct contact with dog or cat saliva.

3. You can buy a hypoallergenic pet.

Fact: Studies have shown that homes with allegedly hypoallergenic pets contain just as much of the prime dog allergen as those with other breeds. There is no environmental evidence that any particular dog breed produces more or less allergen in the home than another one.

4. Animal allergies are caused by exposure to pet hair.

Fact: Pet hair itself does not cause allergies. It’s the saliva, skin, or other proteins carried by hair that cause the problem. Allergens (particularly saliva proteins) can latch on to the hair and dander and then spread throughout your house as the animal sheds.

5. Pregnant women cannot live with cats.

Fact: While toxoplasmosis is a risk for fetuses, a woman is more likely to catch it from handling raw meat or digging in the garden than from her cats. Cat owners can protect themselves from cat-related exposure by emptying the litter box daily or having someone else clean it.

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