Crib death or the Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS) continues to be a major cause of death of young babies and yet there is no known common pathogenic mechanism for this syndrome. Of all the proposed hypotheses to explain the syndrome's etiology, that of mechanical suffocation by a cat is not even mentioned.1 But almost all grandmothers -whether they be ailurophiles or ailurophobes -are convinced that cats may mechanically suffocate an infant while he sleeps in his crib. The annotation below written in 1905 for a leading pediatric journal supports the widely held belief that cats should be banished from the nursery.2
The fondness many children display in taking cherished toys to bed with them is proverbial, and frequently these favourite bedfellows take the form of animal representations in the shape of rabbits, monkeys, and so on, the fur of which is usually much the worse for wear, and requires frequent stitching to prevent the shedding of the interior and for the preservation of the original outline. The more disreputable the appearance of the toy the better it is liked. Some children show a partiality for live animals, and of these cats are not unpopular. Cats, unlike dogs, evince a partiality for lying on the children's chests in close proximity to their faces, and when that is the case there is a real danger of a fatal termination by suffocation. An inquiry was recently held at Battersea into the circumstances of the death of a 1-month-old infant. A relative of the deceased stated that the infant was put to bed at mid-day, and half an hour later, when she went into the room, she found the cat curled up on the child's face.