Bringing a new baby home is a joyful event for the family, but it can also take a lot of adjusting to, especially for cats.
Cats love consistency and routine and you shouldn’t just simply assume they will instantly adapt when you bring home your new arrival. As soon as you find out that there is a baby on the way, you should begin preparing yourself and the feline members of your family for the changes to come.
Expecting a baby is an exciting time. But will your first baby, the feline you have spoiled and doted on for so long, accept your new arrival? If your cat has not had contact with babies and young children before, put yourself in their paws. Including your cat in your baby preparations and making sure you carefully introduce a cat to a baby will help to create a great cat-kid relationship that will benefit the whole family.
Is it safe to bring a baby home into a house with cats?
While your cat themselves may be not dangerous, their droppings can be. Cat faeces can contain a parasite which can cause toxoplasmosis. However, this doesn’t mean you need to give up your moggy. In fact, cat owners are statistically no more likely to get toxoplasmosis than non-cat owners. Just make sure you keep your cat up-to-date with their vaccinations, flea and worming treatment and always wash your hands with antibacterial soap after you feed, groom or play with your cat. Also, ensure you always wear gloves when cleaning the cat litter tray.
Could my cat hurt my baby?
A common worry of expectant parents about when it’s time to introduce a cat to a baby is that their feline friend could accidentally suffocate a baby. After all, cats love being close to something warm and may want to sleep near or even on your baby. Make sure your cat has a warm and comfortable place to sleep that’s away from your baby. Never put your baby on the floor where your cat is and never leave your cat and baby together unsupervised. For extra peace of mind, it’s a good idea to use a screen door on your baby’s nursery, so you can keep the door shut to stop your kitty from sneaking in, but you can still see and hear your baby.
3 ways to prepare your cat for a new baby
1. Tour of the nursery
Preparing your cat for the arrival of the new human ‘kitten’ should start months before they arrive. A good place to start is the nursery. Cats love routine and can be very sensitive to any changes in the home. As you bring in new things to the room, allow your cat to investigate them. This will help them to not feel left out or nervous. If your cat takes to sleeping in the cot or playing with the baby’s mobile, then a crib tent can help stop your cat from climbing inside the baby’s bed. Alternatively, simply keep the door shut when you aren’t there to supervise them.
2. Get your cat used to baby sounds
To help prepare your cat for the sounds that babies make, play recordings of a baby gurgling, crying and screaming for short periods during the day. Focus on gradually increasing the volume as your cat becomes more accustomed to the sounds. To your cat the sound of an infant crying is similar to the cries of a kitten in distress, so the sound can be upsetting to cats. If your cat investigates the sound in a calm way, then reward them with praise. If they get upset, start again but first play a favourite game with them before you turn the sounds on.
3. Introduce a cat to baby smells
As your cat’s primary sense is smell, any new objects brought into the home may seem threatening to them. In the months before baby’s arrival, get your cat used to the smell of baby shampoo, lotion, soap and baby milk. Put some of the new products on your own skin too, so the new smell can mix with your familiar and safe smell. It’s also a good idea to have cots, playpens, changing mats and highchairs in place before the baby arrives. Wipe a soft cloth over your cat’s head and then wipe the cloth over the new baby items. You can even wipe a baby’s sock over your cat’s head which your baby will then wear.
How to introduce a cat to a baby?
When it’s time to introduce a cat to a baby, do so in a quiet room. Let your cat sniff the baby’s foot, preferably when your baby is wearing the feline-scented sock. If your cat runs away from the baby, don’t worry. Never force your cat to interact with your baby. Simply carry on with your normal routine and your cat will likely come and investigate the new arrival when ready. Do give your cat continuous praise when they behave in a calm and confident way. Your cat should hopefully soon understand that when they treat the baby gently, they will get praise in return. It can also help to feed your cat treats in the same room as you feed your baby to encourage positive associations.
Respect your cat’s space
It won’t be long before your baby will be crawling and toddling around the house. As they grow, teach your children to respect the cat. Give your cat a quiet place to go to where they feel safe whenever they need time away from a crawling baby or a toddler’s grabbing hands. Ensure this area is inaccessible to toddlers so your cat doesn’t end up being followed and cornered by an enthusiastic infant. High, dark and secluded places are often a favourite of cats where they can have a good view of what’s going on.
Introducing your cat to your baby
Cats and babies are a great combination. Growing up with a cat can teach children about responsibility, compassion for living things, empathy, care and love for their feline friend. Preparing your cat for the new arrival and giving careful thought to the way you introduce a cat to a baby will help to forge a strong and long-lasting bond between your human and fur children.