Most cats will benefit from preparation before a new baby’s arrival, but those nervous, skittish or needy cats will require extra time and consideration. Cats are creatures of habit and don’t like change. They’re easily upset with abrupt changes in routine or environment. Your cat will need to adjust to a baby’s appearance, sounds and strange smells, which are unfamiliar and maybe even frightening.
Let’s review some steps you can take to prepare your cat for the big arrival.
1. Decide whether you will allow or not allow your cat into the baby’s room. Everyone in the house hold must agree to this rule and stick with it. If the cat is not allowed in the room, remove all cat beds or furniture your cat normally sleeps on. Place a comfy cat bed or cat tree just outside the baby’s room. Every time you enter the room, give a treat or gently toss a treat onto the bed or tree to reward your cat from not coming into the room. Start this trick before the baby comes, this way your cat will be happy to be around the baby. While feeding the baby, toss treats into the bed or tree, rewarding your cat for good behavior. If your cat does sneak into the room, just gently remove it so not to make him/her fearful or aggressive toward you or the baby. Using a small pet gate would also help keep the cat out or a nice wooden screen door painted with the baby’s name on it would allow all pets to look inside but not enter.
If the cat is allowed into the baby’s room, place a few empty pop cans filled with pennies on the rim of the crib, so when the cat jumps up, the noise will discourage future visits. A cat bed or tree could also be placed in the room and treats placed on it as described above to reward good behavior.
2. New smells come with babies, so start using baby lotion, powers etc. on yourself before the baby arrives. Have a spouse bring home blankets or dirty diapers from the hospital with the baby’s scent on them. Place them in the baby’s room and allow the cat to smell them.
3. Baby toys and baby things smell different and make noises. Place toys by the cats feeding area (only one or two at at time) leave them there for a few days. Play with the baby’s toys as you reward your cat with treats. This will create a low-key less scary experience for your cat.
4. Babies smell, look, sound and act differently then adult humans. They frighten cats. By a CD with baby sounds and play it while your cat eats & when you are playing with the cat. Start with the volume low, but increase it as your cat becomes more familiar with the sounds.
5. Do playful poking of your cat and reward with a treat. This will condition your cat for future pokes from the baby’s fingers.
6. Keep your cats schedule consistent. Decide when you will feed, give one-on-one attention and scoop the litter box. Remember, cats don’t like change, so keep their schedule consistent.
7. Make sure to prepare for the toddler who will soon arrive! So start considering moving the litter pan into quiet areas where the toddler will not bother the cat or the pan. This suggestion also applies for water and food bowl locations.
8. If your cat approaches the child and peacefully smells the baby’s face, praise the cat for the nice gentle behavior. Every time your cat comes by the baby praise and treat. Stop the praise and treats when the cat walks away. Don’t ever force your cat to approach the baby.
9. Keep your cat’s nails trimmed short or consider Soft Paws (plastic nail tips). You can purchase these at a pet store.
Hopefully you found these tips helpful for introducing your cat to your family’s new addition.
From the other side of the exam table,
Gloria Williams DVM