Preparing your cat for life with a newborn
A newborn baby in the household can be disruptive to your cat, but if handled in the right way the two can become the best of friends.
If you’re worried about how to introduce a new baby to your cat, this article will show you how to make sure the two get along.
Before the baby arrives
Animals can sense when something is changing in their home, especially cats, which are particularly sensitive. Cats have their own individual personalities, just like humans, and you should take this into account when introducing a newborn. Use the time before your baby is born to get your cat used to the idea of an extra human being around.
The following ideas on how to prepare a cat for a new baby should take place gradually so your cat doesn´t experience major changes to their routine, which could make them stressed.
- Provide some places where your cat can hide and feel safe. Cats love to curl up in corners, boxes and confined spaces. This gives them a sense of security. Make sure your cat has places they can easily access to get some peace and quiet away from the commotion of the baby. A box with an item of clothing that smells of you is a good idea.
- Keep the cat out of the baby’s room and especially don´t allow it to climb into the cot. This could be an inviting place to sleep but extremely dangerous for your baby. Whilst it may seem cute before the birth of the baby your cat won´t understand if you try to prevent this once they’re used to doing it.
- Play recorded baby sounds so your cat gets accustomed to the noise a little person can make. You could also invite friends and family with children to your home, but don´t leave them alone with your cat.
- Cats are extremely sensitive to smells so you should begin to introduce the baby wash and lotion scent to them by using it yourself.
- New babies need a lot of equipment – a car seat, pram, baby bath, rockers, changing bags, and more. Bring these items into the home one at a time and allow your cat to sniff them and get used to them, but not sleep on any of the baby items.
- If your cat sleeps in your bed, now is the time to discourage it as this is not a good idea when you are feeding a newborn in the middle of the night.
All these things will help your cat feel more secure and comfortable in the environment it’s used to.
Use this time to make a fuss of your cat so they know that, despite something new happening, they are still important to you.
When the baby comes home
If you’ve had your cat for years and suddenly the baby is taking up a lot of your time (which they will do!) your cat may feel rejected. When you bring the baby home, enter the house first and leave the baby outside with someone for a few minutes. Greet your cat and make a fuss of them before you introduce the baby.
Allow the cat to sniff the baby and get to know it. They may not show any interest but this doesn´t mean they won´t investigate later, so make sure the two are never left alone.
Try and safely include the cat in any baby activities you can, for example, talk to them when you’re changing the baby, walk the pushchair around the garden with them, and give them a cat treat when it’s baby feeding time.
Your cat’s behaviour after the new baby arrives will depend on how you help the two interact. Never get cross with your cat if they are inquisitive around the baby. If you feel they’re too close gently move the cat away. Never leave a cat and a newborn alone, even for a few seconds.
If you’re concerned about the cat climbing into the pram or cot (cats love to snuggle up against something warm) you should buy a cot or pram cat net. These nets can be securely tied to the cot or pram to keep the baby safe.
However, you should also keep the door closed when the baby is sleeping and use a video monitor to keep an eye on them.
The main thing is to ensure that your baby is safe and that the cat understands the new rules.
Excellent hygiene is essential
You’ll want to keep things extra clean and hygienic when you have a cat with a new baby.
If your cat uses a litter tray, keep it well away from any food preparation area. If you have a utility room, put the litter tray here, rather than in the kitchen. If you need to move the tray before the baby arrives do this gradually so your cat gets used to it.
Wear gloves whenever you clean or move the tray. This is also important while you are pregnant to prevent toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection caused by the faeces of an infected cat.
Always wash your hands after stroking the cat or cleaning the litter tray (even after wearing gloves) to avoid cross-contamination. Having sanitising hand gel easily available is a good idea and another way to keep things clean.
Cats like to be clean and it’s unlikely they will do their business where they shouldn´t unless they are feeling stressed.
Keep the utensils you use for preparing your baby’s food or milk out of reach of the cat. Don´t allow your cat to jump on the kitchen surfaces as this can spread bacteria.
Vacuum as often as you can to prevent cat hairs from causing your baby to have an allergic reaction. While you might not have time to clean as thoroughly as before, good hygiene is essential when you have pets and a new baby. This is the time to take friends and family up on their offers of help!
Don´t let your cat lick the baby as this can spread bacteria to their delicate skin. While cats lick themselves and their kittens to clean them, this behaviour should be discouraged with a baby.
It’s also important to de-worm and check your cat for fleas and ticks regularly. Before using any sprays, check that they are safe for children.
As baby gets older
As your baby grows, it’s important they also learn to be gentle with your cat. As babies get older, they tend to grasp anything without understanding danger. Your cat’s tail may be a great source of amusement to a young child, but they have to learn it is not a plaything.
When introducing a new baby to a cat, show them how to pet and stroke it gently so they gain respect for the animal. This will also make the cat feel comfortable as it will begin to see the child is not a threat.
Cats don´t like sudden movements and may see this as a comprising situation and retaliate by biting or scratching. Neither do many cats like being picked up or handled, which is something young children may try to do. If your cat bites or scratches a child, clean the wound immediately. If it seems serious, you should take your child to a doctor.
A crawling baby loves to explore the world around them, which may include the litter tray and cat’s feeding bowl. Young children often put things in their mouths so it’s essential to keep your cat’s items out of reach, including their toys. A baby can’t differentiate between their own toys and the cat’s so you must keep both separate.
You could install a baby gate across doors to stop a crawling baby from entering the room when the cat is feeding, however, remember the cat will still be able to jump the gate.
Another idea to try is a raised cat house where your cat can keep away from little fingers. These elevated structures can be great for a cat to sleep in and even feed too. It gives the cat its own environment where it feels safe and comfortable.
Is your cat showing signs of aggression?
No matter how well you prepare your pet, cats and new babies don’t always mix. The cat may be extremely jealous and reject the baby no matter how carefully you’ve introduced them. It may do this because it is scared, in pain, or wants to protect its territory.
If you are worried about an aggressive cat and a new baby in any way you need to take action immediately before it turns into something serious. Beware of the signs of an anxious cat. If it hisses and howls when a child comes near, the cat is protecting itself.
Understanding a cat’s body language is essential to know if the cat is happy or wants to be alone. As a child grows, it’s also helpful to teach them about your cat’s behaviour and how it views the world.
An extreme solution is to rehome your cat if it is showing aggression towards your baby. However, this should be a last resort as cats and children can live in harmony together and having a pet is good for a child’s development.
You could try including Lactium® in your cat’s diet, which is known to have calming properties. A much gentler alternative to pet tranquilisers, this milk derivative is a natural way to treat a cat’s anxiety and can help them deal with the introduction of a newborn to the household. Lactium® is a natural solution that reduces stress in pets, contact us to find out more!