Once you get the great news that you are about to welcome a new baby into the family, you start to prepare for the big changes. As a huge adjustment for your cat, you should start to prepare them for the changes to both their environment and routine months before the baby’s arrival. Planning in advance means that your cat can get used to some of the changes that will be happening, and when the baby arrives it will be an easier transition. It is important that you do start the changes well in advance and not when the baby arrives. Some people, especially those without pets, will think it is best that you re-home your cat but with the right plans, precautions and routines in place that shouldn’t be necessary.
Before Your Baby Is Born
Getting your cat used to new smells and objects that are going to be coming into their home is a must as new products and objects can be a threatening time for them. By putting cots, pushchairs, highchairs, changing mats, moses baskets and playpens in place means that your cat can familiarise itself with the new objects before the arrival. A cat’s primary sense is their smell, so it would be a good idea to apply the baby products on yourself so that once the baby arrives and is using them they can relate the smell back to a familiar, safe smell.
Baby sounds is something else that you should focus on getting your cat used to. Play recordings of babies crying, laughing, screaming and gurgling for short periods of time daily. It is important that you increase the sound gradually the more your cat gets familiar with the sounds. Don’t put the sounds on full volume until your cat recognises the noises and you know that they are calm and relaxed.
Always feed the cat where the baby won’t be able to reach once they are toddling around the house. If you are changing the cat’s feeding place, then you should do this prior to the arrival so that they are comfortable once the baby is here.
As cat and baby toys are very similar in terms of material and sounds, you should ensure that they are kept separate at all times. Be careful that the baby does not pick up the cat’s toy and place it in her mouth. Always tidy the toys away but make time to play with the cat and its toys so that it does not start to feel left out.
Check that your cat is in good health and if you think they may be suffering from any sort of illness then you must consult your vet. Any pain or irritation that your cat may be suffering from can lead to spaying and aggression, so you should get this sorted well before the arrival.
Many cats like a quiet place that they can escape too. When the new baby comes, and your house is flooded with visitors all cooing over the new arrival, your cat will probably want to be out of the way - therefore you should provide them with a quiet, safe place. Cats prefer high, secluded, places with a good view of household activities so a high shelf or scratching post is ideal.
When Your Baby Arrives
The first time that your cat meets their new sibling you should introduce them in a quiet room that they aren’t super familiar with – a room where they eat or sleep. Hold your baby and allow your cat to sniff them, rewarding your cat with treats and praise for good behaviour. It is more than likely that your cat will be interested for just a few minutes and then lose interest. However, if your cat is not interested at all and runs away, you must not force them to interact as this can be very stressful for a cat. Allow them to come around in their own time and continue with everyday duties and routines in the meantime.
One of the main reasons that people may encourage you to rehome your cat is hygiene. It is essential that you don’t leave any dirty nappies on the floor as this can cause your cat to wet or mess in this area. Always use antibacterial soap to clean your hands after grooming, feeding or playing with your cat – you should use rubber gloves to clean the litter tray that you can wash afterwards. Treat your cat for fleas and worms regularly, especially if they wonder the great outdoors often.
Don’t put your baby on the floor whenever the cat is around and never leave the cat unsupervised with the baby, even if they have a good temperament. You should think about using a cot and pram net so that your cat can’t get near when the baby is asleep. Also, screen doors for the nursery are a good idea as they mean that you can still see and hear them without the cat wandering in there.
Once your baby is no longer a baby and becomes a toddler they will be doing lots of crawling and toddling around the house. This is when the cat will more than likely want a quiet place to get off to – which should be inaccessible to your toddler so that your cat can’t be continuously followed. Remember to place the litter-tray and cat toys out of reach of toddlers.
If your cat has any behavioural problems, then it is advised that you contact your vet or local behaviourist as this can get worse once the baby arrives.