Before the baby arrives
If you want your cat to accept your baby as part of his select family (we know that cats aren’t so free with their affections), you need to start to prepare him before the birth. The months of pregnancy are the perfect time to:
1. Arrange things in your house so that your cat can hide himself away when the baby comes
When cats get scared, their instinct is to run away and hide. So in preparation, you can get a few hiding places ready for him. A cardboard box in a quiet place can be a simple, practical solution.
2. Change the location of your cat’s litter tray, water and food bowls
It may be that the current location of these things won’t be ideal when the baby comes. So stay one step ahead and look for a new place before the baby arrives so that he can start to get used to it. In this way you’ll avoid introducing too many changes all at once.
3. Get your cat used to not going into the baby’s room (if that’s what you’ve decided on)
Allowing a cat to go into the nursery is a very personal decision. If you’ve decided that you’d prefer your cat not to go in, take advantage of these months to explain to your feline friend that you’d rather he didn’t go into this room.
4. Gradually introduce all the baby accessories
The bassinet, the pram, the cot… All these things can be a source of stress for your cat. As far as possible, introduce these new accessories into your home gradually. Spray them with calming pheromones to encourage positive associations for your cat, and let him take good look in his own time. You can also reward him by leaving an edible treat nearby, or maybe leaving some of his toys inside.
5. Modify your cat’s routines to make them compatible with your baby’s
When cats and babies live together it needs to be clear that each needs your attention. But there’s no doubt at all that when the baby arrives, you’ll need to divide your time.
To make sure that your cat doesn’t notice a sharp decrease in the amount of attention he gets when the baby is born, try to start giving him quality time, but perhaps not quite so often, so that he gets used to having less of your time.
And of course, if your cat has behaviour problems related with stress or aggression, now is the ideal time to look for a specialist to help you to resolve them. If not, they could get worse with the arrival of the new member of the family.
What do you do with your cat while you’re in hospital?
Some people consider taking their cat to a cattery for the time that they’re in hospital. However, this isn’t a good idea. As we’ve already explained, cats are very sensitive animals and any change can be stressful for them.
Moving your cat to a new place just before the baby’s arrival is generally counterproductive when what you want to do is to arrange things so that your new baby and your cat will be able to live happily together.
It’s best for him to stay at home, in his usual environment and to get someone to come in and check on him each day, feed him, change his water and keep him company for a bit.
Ad, it’s also a good idea to take advantage of your time in hospital to introduce your cat to your baby’s scent.
Take a blanket or some of the baby’s clothes that hold his scent, and ask a friend or a family member who knows your cat (not someone who’s a stranger to him) to take it to your home, and leave it on the floor so that your cat can smell it and rub against it.
Cats and newborn babies: 4 guidelines for a happy coexistence
There are four basic guidelines for ensuring a happy coexistence between cats and babies:
1. Supervise all interactions between your cat and your baby
This is the most important norm. Never leave your cat and your baby together unsupervised, even if you think that coexistence between cats and babies is something natural and unproblematic.
There is no reason that anything bad should happen, but do remember that an adult cat, however docile he may be, could asphyxiate the baby if he sleeps in the cot, or could scratch the baby even though he was only being playful.
2. Give your cat time to adjust
The arrival of your baby represents a big change for your cat. Give him time to get used to the new situation so that it becomes familiar to him.
3. Don’t shout at him or tell him off if he goes near the baby
Your aim form now on should be to get your cat to always associate your baby with positive experiences.
If at any time he gets too close, or you’d prefer him to be in a different place, just pick him up and move him in a friendly way. You might also like to give him an edible treat so that he won’t feel so unhappy to be moved.
4. If you see any signs of aggression towards your baby, consult a specialist immediately
Problems of coexistence between cats and newborn babies won’t solve themselves. The sooner you get expert help and advice, the greater the range of options for resolving them will be.
Which cats coexist best with newborn babies?
Before your baby arrives home, it’s difficult to know how your cat will respond. His reaction Will depend on different factors:
- Genetics: breed and kinship
- Your cat’s personality: you’re the person who knows better than anyone if your cat tends to get stressed, is shy, or adapts well to change
- Past experiences: Proper socialisation generally leads to successful adaptation
It’s difficult to recommend any particular breed as coexisting best with new born babies. Each individual cat is different. Actually, the best thing is to observe how your cat behaves if a visitor with a baby comes to your house.