"Unlike dogs, cats typically run away when bothered by a child. A cat will rarely chase anyone who runs away from it," says Shain. "But if a child chases a cat or corners it, the animal may lash out. Your child should learn to just let it go."
* Teach your child that if a kitty flips its tail back and forth quickly, it's more likely to scratch or bite, so avoid it.
* If your child is scratched or bitten by a cat, wash the area well with soap and water, and rinse for at least 30 seconds. If the bite punctured the skin, call your doctor. After a scratch, watch for swollen glands or lingering tenderness at the site over the next two weeks -- signs that your child may need antibiotics.
* If your cat tends to scratch people, ask your vet about declawing -- but only as a last resort.
* Keep your cat indoors to minimize exposure to ticks and fleas and to keep her safe.
* Teach your child not to pick up a cat, but just to pet it gently on the back or behind its ears, and never to bother one that's sleeping or eating.
* Don't let your child handle the litter box.
If you're pregnant...
Avoid contact with cats because they can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that may increase the risk of miscarriage or fetal deformities. To reduce your risk:
* Keep your cat indoors where he's less likely to hunt mice or other small animals. (Cats get the parasite from eating raw meat.)
* Feed your feline only commercial cat food -- never undercooked meat.
* Have your spouse clean the litter box daily. If you have to do it yourself, wear rubber gloves and wash both your hands and the gloves thoroughly when finished.
* Avoid stray or outdoor cats; you don't know what they may be carrying.