Wellington, Feb 24 – A baby has died after being suffocated by the family cat, in what is believed to be the world’s first documented case.
The case was highlighted in the latest Medical Journal. Taranaki Hospital pediatrician Paul Heaton and Christchurch pathologist Martin Sage report that the death showed previously ridiculed warnings about the dangers of cats near babies should be taken seriously.
Christchurch infant Hayden Miles King, 24 days old, died in December 1992, due to what the coroner ruled was suffocation by the family cat.
The baby had been placed in his cot late in the morning and was found three hours later, distressed and blue, with a long-haired grey cat lying on his face.
"Mother and ambulance crew both noted the presence of cat fur on the mouth and in the pharynx of the baby during unsuccessful attempts at mouth-to-mouth resuscitation," the journal report said.
Dr Sage told the coroner at the time that the baby had been healthy and none of the usual signs of sudden infant death syndrome were present.
Dr Heaton said today there had been one other medically reported case of cat suffocation, in Sweden in 1982. That suffocation was now believed to have been caused by other factors, and the baby had not died.
Although it was well known that dogs could attack babies, there had been little evidence about the risk posed by cats.
It was clear that babies should not be left alone with pets, Dr Heaton said.
The death was the second tragedy in two months for mother Marie King. Her sister Sharon Weallens and a friend died when their car plunged into the Buller River.
Dr Heaton said he believed the cat had since been put down.
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