4 deleted 254 characters in body
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[...] While most of the song is fairly literal, the first half of the song's chorus contains a number of phrases probably intended as metaphors. The phrase "Cat's in the Cradle" is probably a reference to the (scientifically unproven) belief that cats sneaking into the cradle would suffocate babies, causing sudden infant death syndrome; so the cat being able to sneak into the cradle would be a sign of an inattentive parent.
- "Cat's in the Cradle" on Wikipedia


EDIT: As pointed out by Jason C, the above wikipedia article is unsubstantiated, so perhaps a slightly more trustworthy source is snopes.com regarding stories ofdiscusses an (obviously untrue) urban myth about cats smothering new born babies, so cat is in the cradle may be a reference to that old wives tale, with the implication that a cat in the cradle is dangerous and infantsimplies the baby is forgotten and neglected.  

CLAIM: Cats suck the breath from babies, sometimes killing them. FALSE.
The idea that a cat could suck the breath of an infant is simply a misguided notion — cats just don’t do that. It is said the smell of milk on the child’s breath draws the feline in for the kill, but anyone who has been around housecats knows the average moggie doesn’t much care for the liquid. (Given free choice between plain water and a bowl of milk, cats generally head for the water unless milk has been the only liquid offered to them from weaning onwards. Put more simply, unless the cat has been taught to like milk, it generally won’t seek out that substance on its own.)

Another theory advanced as to why a cat would want to harm a baby relates to the jealousy the pet will supposedly experience when the little bundle from heaven is brought into the household. No longer the center of attention, the neglected pet is allegedly capable of setting about to get rid of what it sees as the usurper. This theory is of far more recent coinage than the bit of lore it purports to explain, though, coming into fashion no earlier than the 20th century (while the “smother” belief dates to at least the 1700s).

In 1791 a jury at a coroner’s inquest in England rendered a verdict to the effect that a Plymouth child had met his death by a cat sucking out its breath. The superstition itself is older, with print sightings of it recorded from 1607 and 1708, so that 1791 verdict should be viewed with the realization that the jury was probably influenced by a snippet of “everybody knows” lore when it came time to explain a death for which there was no apparent cause.

Note: this answer is now completely rewritten after Jason C noticed problems with the Wikipedia article that I had originally referenced.

[...] While most of the song is fairly literal, the first half of the song's chorus contains a number of phrases probably intended as metaphors. The phrase "Cat's in the Cradle" is probably a reference to the (scientifically unproven) belief that cats sneaking into the cradle would suffocate babies, causing sudden infant death syndrome; so the cat being able to sneak into the cradle would be a sign of an inattentive parent.
- "Cat's in the Cradle" on Wikipedia


EDIT: As pointed out by Jason C, the above wikipedia article is unsubstantiated, so perhaps a slightly more trustworthy source is snopes.com regarding stories of cats and infants.  

CLAIM: Cats suck the breath from babies, sometimes killing them. FALSE.
The idea that a cat could suck the breath of an infant is simply a misguided notion — cats just don’t do that. It is said the smell of milk on the child’s breath draws the feline in for the kill, but anyone who has been around housecats knows the average moggie doesn’t much care for the liquid. (Given free choice between plain water and a bowl of milk, cats generally head for the water unless milk has been the only liquid offered to them from weaning onwards. Put more simply, unless the cat has been taught to like milk, it generally won’t seek out that substance on its own.)

Another theory advanced as to why a cat would want to harm a baby relates to the jealousy the pet will supposedly experience when the little bundle from heaven is brought into the household. No longer the center of attention, the neglected pet is allegedly capable of setting about to get rid of what it sees as the usurper. This theory is of far more recent coinage than the bit of lore it purports to explain, though, coming into fashion no earlier than the 20th century (while the “smother” belief dates to at least the 1700s).

In 1791 a jury at a coroner’s inquest in England rendered a verdict to the effect that a Plymouth child had met his death by a cat sucking out its breath. The superstition itself is older, with print sightings of it recorded from 1607 and 1708, so that 1791 verdict should be viewed with the realization that the jury was probably influenced by a snippet of “everybody knows” lore when it came time to explain a death for which there was no apparent cause.

snopes.com discusses an (obviously untrue) urban myth about cats smothering new born babies, so cat is in the cradle may be a reference to that old wives tale, with the implication that a cat in the cradle is dangerous and implies the baby is forgotten and neglected.

CLAIM: Cats suck the breath from babies, sometimes killing them. FALSE.
The idea that a cat could suck the breath of an infant is simply a misguided notion — cats just don’t do that. It is said the smell of milk on the child’s breath draws the feline in for the kill, but anyone who has been around housecats knows the average moggie doesn’t much care for the liquid. (Given free choice between plain water and a bowl of milk, cats generally head for the water unless milk has been the only liquid offered to them from weaning onwards. Put more simply, unless the cat has been taught to like milk, it generally won’t seek out that substance on its own.)

Another theory advanced as to why a cat would want to harm a baby relates to the jealousy the pet will supposedly experience when the little bundle from heaven is brought into the household. No longer the center of attention, the neglected pet is allegedly capable of setting about to get rid of what it sees as the usurper. This theory is of far more recent coinage than the bit of lore it purports to explain, though, coming into fashion no earlier than the 20th century (while the “smother” belief dates to at least the 1700s).

In 1791 a jury at a coroner’s inquest in England rendered a verdict to the effect that a Plymouth child had met his death by a cat sucking out its breath. The superstition itself is older, with print sightings of it recorded from 1607 and 1708, so that 1791 verdict should be viewed with the realization that the jury was probably influenced by a snippet of “everybody knows” lore when it came time to explain a death for which there was no apparent cause.

Note: this answer is now completely rewritten after Jason C noticed problems with the Wikipedia article that I had originally referenced.

3 added snopes
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[...] While most of the song is fairly literal, the first half of the song's chorus contains a number of phrases probably intended as metaphors. The phrase "Cat's in the Cradle" is probably a reference to the (scientifically unproven) belief that cats sneaking into the cradle would suffocate babies, causing sudden infant death syndrome; so the cat being able to sneak into the cradle would be a sign of an inattentive parent.
- "Cat's in the Cradle" on Wikipedia

 

PS. It's originallyEDIT: As pointed out by Jason C, the above wikipedia article is unsubstantiated, so perhaps a slightly more trustworthy source is Harry Chapin songsnopes.com regarding stories of cats and infants. 

CLAIM: Cats suck the breath from babies, sometimes killing them. FALSE.
The idea that a cat could suck the breath of an infant is simply a misguided notion — cats just don’t do that. It is said the smell of milk on the child’s breath draws the feline in for the kill, but anyone who has been around housecats knows the average moggie doesn’t much care for the liquid. (Given free choice between plain water and a bowl of milk, cats generally head for the water unless milk has been the only liquid offered to them from weaning onwards. Put more simply, unless the cat has been taught to like milk, it generally won’t seek out that substance on its own.)

Another theory advanced as to why a cat would want to harm a baby relates to the jealousy the pet will supposedly experience when the little bundle from heaven is brought into the household. No longer the center of attention, the neglected pet is allegedly capable of setting about to get rid of what it sees as the usurper. This theory is of far more recent coinage than the bit of lore it purports to explain, though, coming into fashion no earlier than the 20th century (while the “smother” belief dates to at least the 1700s).

In 1791 a jury at a coroner’s inquest in England rendered a verdict to the effect that a Plymouth child had met his death by a cat sucking out its breath. The superstition itself is older, with print sightings of it recorded from 1607 and 1708, so that 1791 verdict should be viewed with the realization that the jury was probably influenced by a snippet of “everybody knows” lore when it came time to explain a death for which there was no apparent cause.

[...] While most of the song is fairly literal, the first half of the song's chorus contains a number of phrases probably intended as metaphors. The phrase "Cat's in the Cradle" is probably a reference to the (scientifically unproven) belief that cats sneaking into the cradle would suffocate babies, causing sudden infant death syndrome; so the cat being able to sneak into the cradle would be a sign of an inattentive parent.
- "Cat's in the Cradle" on Wikipedia

PS. It's originally a Harry Chapin song.

[...] While most of the song is fairly literal, the first half of the song's chorus contains a number of phrases probably intended as metaphors. The phrase "Cat's in the Cradle" is probably a reference to the (scientifically unproven) belief that cats sneaking into the cradle would suffocate babies, causing sudden infant death syndrome; so the cat being able to sneak into the cradle would be a sign of an inattentive parent.
- "Cat's in the Cradle" on Wikipedia

 

EDIT: As pointed out by Jason C, the above wikipedia article is unsubstantiated, so perhaps a slightly more trustworthy source is snopes.com regarding stories of cats and infants. 

CLAIM: Cats suck the breath from babies, sometimes killing them. FALSE.
The idea that a cat could suck the breath of an infant is simply a misguided notion — cats just don’t do that. It is said the smell of milk on the child’s breath draws the feline in for the kill, but anyone who has been around housecats knows the average moggie doesn’t much care for the liquid. (Given free choice between plain water and a bowl of milk, cats generally head for the water unless milk has been the only liquid offered to them from weaning onwards. Put more simply, unless the cat has been taught to like milk, it generally won’t seek out that substance on its own.)

Another theory advanced as to why a cat would want to harm a baby relates to the jealousy the pet will supposedly experience when the little bundle from heaven is brought into the household. No longer the center of attention, the neglected pet is allegedly capable of setting about to get rid of what it sees as the usurper. This theory is of far more recent coinage than the bit of lore it purports to explain, though, coming into fashion no earlier than the 20th century (while the “smother” belief dates to at least the 1700s).

In 1791 a jury at a coroner’s inquest in England rendered a verdict to the effect that a Plymouth child had met his death by a cat sucking out its breath. The superstition itself is older, with print sightings of it recorded from 1607 and 1708, so that 1791 verdict should be viewed with the realization that the jury was probably influenced by a snippet of “everybody knows” lore when it came time to explain a death for which there was no apparent cause.

2 clarify source of the quote
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[...] While most of the song is fairly literal, the first half of the song's chorus contains a number of phrases probably intended as metaphors. The phrase "Cat's in the Cradle" is probably a reference to the (scientifically unproven) belief that cats sneaking into the cradle would suffocate babies, causing sudden infant death syndrome; so the cat being able to sneak into the cradle would be a sign of an inattentive parent. 
- Wikipedia"Cat's in the Cradle" on Wikipedia

PS. It's originally a Harry Chapin song.

While most of the song is fairly literal, the first half of the song's chorus contains a number of phrases probably intended as metaphors. The phrase "Cat's in the Cradle" is probably a reference to the (scientifically unproven) belief that cats sneaking into the cradle would suffocate babies, causing sudden infant death syndrome; so the cat being able to sneak into the cradle would be a sign of an inattentive parent. - Wikipedia

PS. It's originally a Harry Chapin song.

[...] While most of the song is fairly literal, the first half of the song's chorus contains a number of phrases probably intended as metaphors. The phrase "Cat's in the Cradle" is probably a reference to the (scientifically unproven) belief that cats sneaking into the cradle would suffocate babies, causing sudden infant death syndrome; so the cat being able to sneak into the cradle would be a sign of an inattentive parent. 
- "Cat's in the Cradle" on Wikipedia

PS. It's originally a Harry Chapin song.

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