Cats are creatures of habit, so it can be very upsetting when a baby turns their world upside down. Fortunately, there are ways to soften the emotional turmoil and prepare your cat for the new family member. Here’s how to safely introduce cats and babies to each other:
Keep Your Cat on a Consistent Schedule
Babies are hectic, and their needs can create stress and disrupt the entire household. Before your baby arrives, make sure your cat already has a regular, predictable routine for feeding, litter box cleaning, medication (as needed) and play time.
If you feel you may have trouble keeping your cat’s schedule, enlist the help of those around you and invest in an automatic food dispenser. Having consistent times for daily activities will help your cat be more resilient when everything else gets crazy.
Slowly Introduce Your Cat to the Baby’s Things
Humans may take for granted all the new sights, sounds and smells a new baby brings with it. But for cats (who, let’s face it, like to have things their way), all the strange, loud stimuli can be quite overwhelming.
To help conquer this, let your cat sniff the new baby items as you bring them into your home, including the nursery. Let your cat rub her face on the items so they will be a part of the home to her. Once you’ve introduced to the new items, decide what surfaces you don’t want your cat on (such as cribs, changing tables and rocking chairs) and make them undesirable by putting cardboard with double-sided tape on them several weeks before the baby comes. This way, your cat won’t get used to hanging out on them.
After the baby is born, bring home an item from the hospital that the baby has been in contact with and let your cat investigate it. This allows your cat to become used to the smell of the new baby before they come into the house.
You can also purchase a CD of baby sounds or download baby sounds for pets on iTunes and play it in the background of your home before your due date so that your cat can become accustomed to all the odd sounds a baby makes. Play this when your cat is relaxed or you’re cuddling with her so she knows there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Try Not to Give Your Cat Extra Attention
As much as you may want to preemptively assuage feelings of guilt, you have to resist the temptation to heap extra attention on your cat before the baby arrives.
Remember, cats are routine-based animals, so if you pile on the affection to make up for a later deficit, she will come to expect this every day. To help ease your cat into the “lesser” role, introduce more toys that will have her playing on her own, but still be sure to give her some one-on-one time as per your new schedule.
Cats love to be high up in the air, so invest in a tall scratch post or cat tree. This allows your cat to flee from a situation she may perceive as “too much” but still allows her to be a part of the goings-on of the family. Cat trees are also perfect perches for when the baby becomes a toddler and may become too “grabby” for your cat’s comfort.
Talk to Your Doctor About Toxoplasmosis
There are some concerns that cats can pass this infection (caused by a parasite) to humans, and pregnant women can pass it to their unborn children. However, the Centers for Disease Control states that you’re more likely to contract toxoplasmosis from raw meat or gardening than from your cat, but talk to your doctor about your concerns to be on the safe side regardless.
Let Your Cat Spend Time with You
Cats are sensitive creatures, so even after the baby arrives, be sure not to ignore or shoo away your feline pal. Up to this point, she may have been the center of attention, and now she will have to get used to not getting the lion’s share of your affection. Give your cat the love she craves when the baby is napping or when someone else in the household is tending to the baby.
Don’t Let Cats and Babies Sleep Together
As much as your cat may be interested in your baby, it’s not a good idea to let cats and babies sleep together, as a cat can curl up too close and restrict an infant’s airway. Some more jealous cats have even been known to urinate inside the crib, so to prevent these unwanted incidents, plan to keep her out of the baby’s room when you aren’t in there, or use a baby crib tent to keep your infant safe while your cat can still see what’s going on.
Working out any issues that arise between babies and cats will take some effort, but it will be well worth it when your child grows up with a loving pet that may just turn into a best friend.
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