Pet Tips 'n' Tales

Baby's Teacher is a Cat!

Courtesy Photo"
When Baby David's parents learned that he was going to be born with Down's syndrome, they wondered if keeping their family cat, Toby, was a good idea.  As it turns out, keeping Toby has had more hidden benefits than they could ever have imagined.  Here David is at eight months old with his inseparable furry buddy, four-year-old Toby.


When Thuvan learned that her third child, a son, was going to be born with Down's syndrome, questions flooded her mind. "Are pets good for babies born with disabilities?  Will Toby, our Maine Coon cat, hurt David when we bring him home from the hospital?  How will we prepare Toby for the arrival of David?  These and hundreds of other questions plagued my mind," explains Thuvan.

"I did everything that I was supposed to do to prepare Toby for David. We gave Toby time to sniff out the crib, the bassinet, and baby clothes.

What surprised us the most was that we were not prepared for the huge difference and influence Toby would become in our son's life. 

Because of a Down's trait, at three months of age David had to have open-heart surgery.  After surgery, he had to lie on his back for two months.  The picture above was taken during this time.

Now, at 11 months old, David's overall development is delayed by 6 months.  He requires weekly therapy to help him build his core muscles so he can sit up, crawl, and walk. 

While David is making incredible progress, his biggest asset is Toby.  Yes, the cat!

During David's therapy, Toby sits just inches away and carefully watches him. 

David "tracks" Toby as he walks back and forth in front of him.  While this may seem natural for most babies, David's "tracking" is a major part of his therapy because it builds his neck and core muscles. 

David stretches and reaches for Toby when he is on the floor and rolls over and attempts to crawl toward him.  They have become inseparable.  So, when people ask me if Toby is good for David, my answer is ABSOLUTELY!

Three years ago, our family adopted Toby from a PetSmart store adoption program.  At the time, we never realized what a valuable asset he would become to us.

The store clerk told us that another couple, just before us, wanted Toby but wanted to declaw him. 

I told her that we would never declaw an animal, even with children, and that's how we got him.  We felt that Toby was a perfect first cat for our children.  At that time, we had no idea exactly how purrfect and influential he would be for our family," says Thuvan.


Weeks before a baby is born:

- Use baby lotion as hand lotion to familiarize your pet with the smell.
- Play crying baby recordings.
- Put double-stick tape on the baby's crib rails.
- Immediately neuter and spay pets to reduce aggression. 
- Before you bring the baby home, let your pets sniff the baby's blanket.
- When you come home, let someone else hold the baby while you greet your pet.
- Supervise dogs on a leash, so they can see the baby from several feet away.
- Keep the nursery door closed, especially when the baby is sleeping.

Further tips:

- Declawing Cats -
What is declawing? "Declawing is, in reality, the amputation of one-third of the cat's paws," reports Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM. "It is a radical and unnecessary surgical solution to a behavioral problem.

Medical complications are common, and long-term pain is a serious risk. Studies suggest that declawing may result in more severe behavior problems, such as biting and eliminating outside the litter box.
Among many alternatives to declawing that protect humans, other animals, and furniture are nail caps, scratching posts, furniture protectors, and, of course, training," adds Dr. Hofve.
Baby David's grandmother is famous!
When the Vietnam war was ending in April 1975, Betty Tisdale rescued 219 orphans from Vietnam. Within a month she located homes in the U.S.A. for all the children.  Shirley Jones played Betty's part in a movie based on this amazing rescue, "The Children of An Lac."  These now-grown children recently held a reunion to honor Betty.

Betty adopted five female babies from the Vietnamese orphanages and baby David's mother is one of these beautiful, caring women.  She is a teacher in Florida.
Now in her 87th year, Betty collects and provides financial aid for orphans in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Mexico, Colombia, and now Haiti.
For more than 60 years, Betty's efforts have built new schools and orphanages. Thousands of children have been fed, and she has brought in medical help for orphans in war-torn and disaster areas.  She personally delivers vitamins, books, clothes, hand sanitizers, school and medical supplies, and money for necessities to her orphanages.
Betty recently visited Haiti and Vietnam, accompanied by another of her beautiful daughters, Mai Lara, with supplies for the orphans.
Betty loves children and cats, and her amazing cat, Connor, was featured with Gizmo in "Hero of the Heart."
Betty Tisdale was originally inspired by Dr. Tom Dooley, author of "Deliver us from Evil", about his efforts rescuing babies and children in Vietnam.
View Dr. Dooley on What's My Line
NOTE: Betty is a finalists for the prestigious Jefferson Humanitarian Award.
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