Cats and Babies
Chuck, was a sweet seven-year-old tuxedo cat who lost his home when he didn’t adapt to a baby in the family. He’d had the same home all his life and he lost his beloved person’s attention to a newcomer. He finally found a new home and settled in nicely. A week after Chuck was adopted, we took in an affectionate cat who had been begun peeing on things owned by a new baby in the family. It was a desperate message that was lost in translation. Cats can react to anxiety by scent-marking, which is a headache to deal with when you have a baby to look after too. Some new parents also worry about the cat harming the baby. Many cats lose their homes because a baby has arrived or is on the way. But cats and babies can be fine together with some planning.
You can prepare your pet for the baby’s arrival. Let her investigate the baby’s things as you buy them. Play musical toys, run any equipment you’ll be using for the baby so she gets used to the sound. Wear any lotions or powders you’ll be using for the baby and let your pet sniff you while you fuss over her. This will create positive associations with the scents. If possible, try to make a tape of a friend’s baby crying and play it for your cat, increasing the loudness and duration until she’s comfortable with the sound.
If you want Kitty to stay out of the crib, put some cans with pennies inside into the crib as soon as you’ve set it up. The jangling these make as Kitty steps among them should have her hurrying out of the crib. Failing that, get crib and pram nets. The nets must be taut or she may use them as a hammock. You could keep her out of the baby’s room completely by installing an interior screen door.
A predictable routine is reassuring for an animal. If you know, for instance, that you won’t have time to feed Kitty in the mornings after the baby arrives, start phasing out her breakfast time and get her used to expecting her meal later in the day.
Before the baby comes home from the hospital, send home something he has worn and let Kitty sniff it while she enjoys some strokes. Once the baby is home, try to remember to give Kitty some of the quality time she was getting before. Let her meet the baby and sniff him while you talk reassuringly. Your calmness will be picked up by both of them and will set the tone.
As Baby grows and becomes mobile, he’ll be curious about the cat. Their time together should always be supervised. Toddlers need to learn how to handle an animal gently, and Kitty can scratch if she gets pulled at too much. Do not have your cat declawed; a declawed cat can resort to biting. Cats’ claws are easy to clip — gently squeeze the toes to extend the claws and avoid clipping into the pink area. You’ll also want to keep the litter tray and food bowls away from your toddler on the other side of a safety gate or a cat flap.
Lastly, there’s a myth that cats smother babies. It is just a myth. Don’t worry if you find Kitty snoozing next to Baby in the crib. Your cat might find the warmth and softness of the crib inviting. She’ll be curious, even jealous. But there are no reported cases of cats ever smothering babies.
There should be no need to give up the family cat because of a new baby. With some planning, the family cat can remain the family cat and your child can grow up enjoying the company of his own pet.