Helping your cat adjust to a new baby
Starting a family is an exciting time with lots of preparation in the home for your new arrival. It’s just as important to prepare your cat for the changes not only around the home but in lifestyle too.
Things you can do in advance:
New sounds and smells
Cats can be extremely sensitive to subtle changes in their environment that humans may not notice, thanks to their heightened hearing and sense of smell. Before your baby arrives, play recordings of a baby crying and gurgling during the day, starting off very quietly for short bursts. Over time, you can increase the volume and length as your cat becomes accustomed to the new noises.
It’s also helpful for your cat to introduce new products to the household so they can adjust to the new smells. Your cat’s sense of smell can make all the difference in them feeling secure at home, so gradually use any new washing powders and baby washes and powders on your own skin. Your cat will begin to associate these products as a safe smell and will then recognise those smells on the baby as non-threatening.
If your cat currently has a spot in the house they consider “theirs” that might change when your baby comes, make sure this change is made in advance. For example, if your cat usually has a spare room to themselves to snooze in and that room is going to become a nursery, begin to shut them out and encourage them to sleep in other spots in your house well in advance of decorating it. This will help ensure your cat doesn’t associate the change to their safe space with the arrival of your baby.
Once your baby is home:
The first meeting
If you can, introduce your cat to your baby in a quiet space in the house where your cat doesn’t eat or sleep. As you hold your baby, let your cat have a little sniff, as chances are they’ll quickly lose interest and potter off. Make sure you reward calm behaviour on this first meeting with praise and affection (and a treat too!) If your cat is nervous and chooses to run away, don’t force it to interact with your baby, just carry on with as much normal routine as possible and let the cat get to know the baby in its own time.
Even if your cat has a very gentle temperament, never leave your cat and baby unsupervised. There’s lots of excellent equipment out there that can protect your baby whilst not completely isolating your cat, such as cot nets and screen doors.
Chances are you might have lots of visitors for the first few weeks your baby is home, so combined with the lifestyle change, your cat may occasionally get a little overwhelmed. Make sure they always have a safe space to hide in, such as an igloo bed or a tall scratching post with a high seat so they can observe from a height that will make your cat feel much safer. If your cat generally is quite nervous, don’t be afraid to tell your visitors they’re best to leave the cat be while they adjust to the changes at home.
As your baby grows
When your baby begins to toddle, it’s more important than ever to supervise and keep baby and pet items separated! Where possible, try to keep your cat’s food and litter tray out of reach and covered so none of it accidentally finds its way into a curious toddler’s mouth. If your cat likes to play, ensure their toys are out of reach, as again you don’t want toys your cat has licked and played with to end up in your child’s mouth. As your baby begins to move they will undoubtedly be curious about your cat, so always supervise when your cat is roaming the house to protect the cat’s tail being grabbed and to prevent your cat getting frustrated if your baby constantly wants to touch them.
Making a few key adjustments before your baby arrives and ensuring your cat still feels a central part of the home environment once your new baby is home will all ensure for a smooth transition for the whole family.