How to Introduce your new baby to your feline friends

                                                                                          

Sand Creek Animal Hospital boy with cat photo

Congratulations on your new baby!  This is an exciting time for everyone, except for maybe your other baby in the household- your loving cat.  Many people are very hesitant and scared for the introduction of cat and baby.  Cats and babies can and do co-exist, as long as you know a few things about your cat.  Cats are creatures of habit, and they are used to your daily routines with them.  When a baby arrives, all your cat knows is that there is something new in the house messing up his normal, routine life.  A new baby is something that causes all kinds of unpredictable sounds, movements and furniture.  It smells weird and different, and it is hogging all of your attention.  There are some things that you can do to help your cat deal and adapt to having a baby join the family.

Baby not home yet

If your baby has not yet arrived, this is a perfect time to start planning and preparing for their introduction.  Since cats are creatures of habit, you want to try and make as few changes as possible, or at least try and make them as slow and gradual as you can.  Sudden changes will cause stress to your feline friend.  Changes in feeding, exercise routines, playtimes, amount of attention, new structures and odors, and new restrictions on what they can or can't do will all cause some amount of stress.  If you recently found out that you are pregnant, then you have plenty of time to gradually make changes before the baby arrives.  Here is a list of some things you can start doing to get your cat used the sounds, smells and new structures that will change his world. 

·         Invite friends over with their babies to give your cat exposure to the smells and sounds they make

·         Start wearing baby lotion and some baby powder when you are holding and playing with your cat so it will associate these scents with you- which is a positive thing

·         Play a recording of a baby cooing, crying and screaming at different times of the day.  Start with the volume lower and gradually raise the volume to get your cat familiar with the sounds

·         Make sure your cat has a safe place to go, either a room, or a high post that makes him feel secure when he is unsure about all the changes taking place

·         Make positive associations by giving treats or playing games when new furniture arrives or when visitors come over with their babies. You can also spray "Feliway" on the furniture to make it more pleasant and acceptable (Feliway is a natural pheromone product)

·         If you will be spending less time with your cat once the baby is born, you should start to make those time changes now so your cat gets used to seeing/playing with you less

Crib tricks

The nursery can be open to your cat or off limits.  This decision is up to you.  If you want to keep it off limits, behavior consultants recommend keeping the room closed off to your cat as soon as you can.  If you are allowing your cat into the nursery, you will want to keep him/her from napping in the crib.  To discourage crib cat napping, you can fill the bottom of the crib with bottles and cans with pennies in them.  You will need to use enough bottles and cans to make it uncomfortable for your cat to get comfy, and the noise of the cans and pennies should keep them away too.  There is also a product called the "Cozy Crib Tent", which goes on top of the crib to keep animals out, and also to keep the baby in as he/she gets older and tries to climb out of the crib.  Even if you let the cat into the nursery, your baby and cat should never be left alone together without supervision. 

Sand Creek Animal Hospital boy with cat photo

When baby comes home

After the baby is born, but before he/she comes home, it is a good idea to have someone bring a piece of clothing or blanket from the hospital to the house for your cat to investigate and become familiar with the scent.  When you finally bring baby home, don't force the cat to see the baby, let the cat investigate in their own time.  Cats can be curious and also frightened by the new family addition.  Monitor their interactions closely, but try to refrain from yelling or acting scared and anxious when the cat is near the baby.  Cats will sense these emotions and could become territorial or protective of you, or act aggressively.   Your cat needs to get the signal from you that they don't need to feel threatened by the baby.  You can pet your cat or give him treats while holding the baby.  This will show a positive association that the baby is good and fun.

The average cat will probably be curious, but then just go about the day and ignore the newcomer.  If there are any signs of aggression or hissing when near the baby or around any baby items, this should be discussed with a feline behaviorist, and they should have no further interactions.  Litter box issues are usually the first sign of distress for a cat.  Try and make sure you are very vigilant about scooping and keeping the box clean and in a quiet location.  Talk with your veterinarian if you are seeing any marking behaviors or signs of litter box problems.

After you bring the baby home, the most important things are to try and keep your cat's daily schedule as consistent as possible, and make sure they get plenty of love and attention along with the baby!