If you're bringing a new baby into your home, take time to pay attention to how your cat will handle the changes. Excluding your pet from this happy time will confuse your cat and leave it sad, stressed, and potentially poised to act out in unacceptable ways, like missing the litter box. Keep the peace by properly introducing your child and your cat to pave the way for a joyful future.
Why Cat Introductions Matter
Remember that your cat was there first. If your cat hasn't been exposed to infants, toddlers, or young children and has only been around adults, put yourself in your pet's paws. To a cat, this small human being might as well be a tiny creature from Mars. A baby smells different, sounds odd with a higher-pitched voice, and though an infant is small and closer to a cat's level, it moves erratically, which can cause anxiety in a feline. As a result, your cat may switch into stranger-danger mode and hide, or become defensive and try to swat at the scary little alien to make it go away. To avoid these scenarios, you'll need a plan that begins well before you bring your baby home.
Let Your Cat Tour the Nursery
Prepare your cat months before your infant comes home. Begin as you're decorating the nursery. Understand that cats love the status quo, so they become sensitive to any changes going on in a home. Make gradual changes to your home. Allow your cat to investigate the new things you're bringing into the space so it doesn't feel left out and nervous. But be aware that your cat will likely want to investigate new furniture or items. You may even find your cat sleeping in the bassinet or batting at the baby's play mobile. For the times you can't supervise your cat in the new space, put up a gate to keep your pet out of the room, or simply shut the door.
If you want to discourage your cat from sleeping in the crib, place a carpet protector, nubby side up, on the mattress. To prevent your cat from making the changing table its new perch, place a long piece of cardboard covered with double-sided tape on the surface. Cats hate walking on anything prickly or sticky.
Get Your Cat Used to a Baby's Cry
Tape the sound of an infant crying so that your kitty gets a warning of what to expect. Cats use sounds to communicate, and infant cries sound similar to kitten distress cries, so it can be upsetting for cats to hear this. Be matter of fact, and if your cat calmly investigates the sound, reward with soothing praise. Should your pet become upset by the noise, begin again, but first start playing a favorite game together before you turn on the recording. That way, your cat will associate having a pleasant time with an infant's cries.
Prepare Your Cat for New Smells
Cats communicate with scent. They identify those that smell similar to them as friends. There are a few stress-free ways to bring new smells into your cat's world.
- Begin wearing baby powder or baby lotion on your hands weeks in advance. That way, your cat associates these smells with someone it already knows and loves.
- Bring home something that has your infant's smell, like a receiving blanket, and let your cat sniff it for an advanced introduction.
- Pet your cat with a pair of infant socks before the baby is born. Have your baby wear the socks home from the hospital. Your baby will smell like your cat, and your pet will identify your infant as part of the family right from the start.
Shower Your Cat With Praise
When you bring home your baby, you'll no doubt be exhausted, but there's still some work to do with your infant and cat. Quietly bring your baby and cat together. Let your cat sniff your baby's foot. Try do do this while your baby is wearing the feline-scented sock so your cat can see that there's nothing to fear. Be sure to continuously praise your cat when it behaves in a confident, calm manner. Once your cat understands that treating a baby gently results in praise, things should go smoothly between the two. Include your cat when you're feeding your baby by offering treats in the same room. That way, the cat associates positive things with the baby's presence. A number of these tips are also used when introducing a new cat into a home with an existing cat.
Debunking a Myth About Cats and Babies
Do cats suffocate babies? The fact is that cats are heat-seeking furry missiles that enjoy being close to a warm body, so your cat may be drawn to sleep near your infant. If you spot your cat sniffing your baby's mouth, it's likely your infant's breath smells like milk, which prompted your pet's curiosity.
Respect Your Cat's Space
As your baby grows, teach your child to respect the cat, too. But from the start, create a private retreat where it can escape a fast crawling baby and a toddler's grabbing hands. Mutual respect and careful introductions grow into a loving bond as your infant grows up alongside a happy cat. And that's a purr-fect relationship that will last a lifetime.