7 min read

Are cats and babies really all that different?

When we brought our son home from the maternity ward about a year ago, our cat Ali spent a lot of time curiously observing this new, tiny human being, and even curled up near him for a nap from time to time. Nowadays, he looks on as my son masters crawling or learns to throw a ball. He lets my son pet him gently (always while being supervised by an adult – something anyone should be sure to do with babies and pets), but at the slightest loud noise or enthusiastic, floppy motion, Ali is out of there.

...And he soon shows up again, watching from a little further away.

The fascination is mutual. My son loves to watch Ali, as well, and enthusiastically calls out to him whenever he walks into his line of vision (my son's second word was "cat").

Maybe it's because they're actually kind of alike. In fact, one of the biggest surprises in my first year of motherhood is just how much babies and cats actually have in common. For example:

- napping. Both cats and babies generally sleep at least 12 hours a day. The only difference is that cats actually want to lie down and go to sleep, while many babies – even exhausted ones -- will need some persuading.

- grooming. Both babies and non-declawed cats have to have their nails/claws clipped. Both (often) get their hair/fur brushed – and, even, in some cases, their teeth, too.

- crying. Anyone who's had a cat, or even been in some kind of contact with one for a while, knows that certain feline sounds are uncannily similar to a baby's cries. It's not a coincidence.

- waking you up. Sure, cats and babies sleep a lot, but it's not always when you want them to. Case in point: Recently, when my son went to stay with his grandmother for a few days, I figured some sweet mornings of lingering in bed were in my future...until Ali decided he was bored or maybe hungry, or both, and started waking me and my husband up even earlier than usual.

- entertainment. One day, I was dragging a string along the floor for Ali to pounce on, when my son started to make plaintive noises. It turned out he, too, wanted that string. Other cat toys, from little balls with bells in them, to "fishing poles" with feathers at their ends, have also become objects equally coveted by cat and kid. (And I have to admit, if it'll keep him entertained while I get some housework done, sometimes I'll give in and let my son play with a cat toy for a while.) Both are also intrigued by flashlight beams, bouncy balls, and scratching posts.

"Okay, can I have the string now?"

- inspiring terror. Babies and cats have ways of getting into life-threatening situations on the daily. Whether it's making sure Ali doesn't jump onto the still-hot stovetop, or nervously surveying just what my son is crawling towards, the stress of watching over them rarely stops. And when there's a visit to the doctor or vet's because something is wrong, that stress is only heightened by, like, a million.

- love. Some people seem to think your feelings about a pet change when you have a child. But to me, the question isn't how could I love a cat, when I have a kid; it's why should having a kid make a difference? Sure, the kinds of love I feel for each are different. But both loves are strong. And what makes them up are very similar: laughter, hugs, warmth, companionship; joy and challenges.

If you're one of those people who gets mad when they hear someone call their pet their baby, next time, just think about it a little -- they actually kind of have a point.