You, your cat and your new baby
As soon as you know there is a baby on the way, you and your family will begin to prepare yourselves for the changes ahead.
Your cat will also need to be prepared for the new arrival, as there will be alterations to the home environment and routine once the baby comes into the house.
With a little forward planning, you can get your pets used to the changes well in advance, so that your cat should hardly notice any difference when the baby actually arrives.
You should start to make preparations four months in advance of the birth – do not leave it until the baby has arrived.
Before the baby is born
Handling your cat
All cats are different when it comes to handling – some are happy to be touched all over, whereas others may only enjoy being stroked on their head or shoulders. It’s common for most cats to be sensitive around their stomach area and tail. If your cat doesn’t like being touched in certain areas, you will have to be mindful of this when your baby becomes more mobile, as babies can ‘grab’ in their enthusiasm to want to touch and stroke, which can easily upset your cat.
Avoid playing games that involve your hands, however tempting! Even if your cat is gentle when playing, it’s always best to use toys instead, as you don’t want your cat to favour fingers or hands, especially when your baby arrives.
Getting your cat used to baby sounds
To help prepare your cat for the sounds that babies make, play recordings of a baby crying, gurgling and screaming for short periods during the day. Initially the sound should be barely audible, increasing the volume gradually as your cat grows accustomed to the noises. It’s important that your cat feels calm and relaxed with the sounds before you increase the volume, so remember to take this slowly.
Getting your cat used to baby smells and objects
A cat’s primary sense is smell, so new products and objects bought into the house can be a particularly challenging and threatening time for them. Get your cat used to baby powder, soaps, shampoos and baby milk by using them in the months leading up to your baby’s arrival. It is also a good idea to put some of the new products on your own skin (eg powder, baby lotion) – this way the new smells can mingle with a familiar ‘safe’ smell, which is likely to be less of a concern for your cat. Playpens, cots, pushchairs, highchairs and changing mats should be in place before the baby arrives.
To make the new objects smell more familiar (and therefore less threatening) wipe a soft cloth over your cat’s head and then using the same area of the cloth, wipe the new baby items. You may wish to install a Feliway diffuser (available from your vet), which is a synthetic version of the facial pheromones produced by the glands on your cat’s face –this can help your cat feel more secure during this potentially stressful time.
Feed your cat where a baby can’t reach
When your baby begins to toddle and explore, cat food may prove an irresistible attraction so accustom your cat to eating in an area, preferably off the ground, where your child won’t be able to reach.
A quiet place to go
You are likely to have lots of visitors when your new baby arrives, including family, friends and health visitors. Some sociable cats may enjoy the extra attention that they get from visitors, whereas others may become overwhelmed if it is something they are not used to.
Cats should always have a quiet, safe place to go to whenever they need to rest or retreat from visitors. This will be especially important to them once the baby arrives and eventually begins to toddle about. Cats prefer high, dark, secluded places that have a good view of the household activities. A tall scratching post with extra tiers or a high shelf is ideal for this, as your cat will be able to get used to what’s going on at a safe distance. Encourage your cat to use these areas by placing a few tasty treats and bedding on them. If your cat is on the nervous side, it’s a good idea to ask your visitors to ignore your cat when they are in their “safe” place.
Separate baby and cat toys
Cat toys and baby toys are often made of similar materials. Some toys even make the same kind of noise, such as a squeak or rattle. It’s not surprising then that babies will pick up and chew the cat’s toys. Tidy them away, but remember to bring them out and play with your cat throughout the day.
Resting and sleeping places
You should decide if you will need to change where your cat currently rests and sleeps. For example, the spare room where your cat usually has free access may become the nursery. Gradually encourage your cat to sleep in other areas and then keep the nursery door closed. Make this and other changes well in advance so your cat,does not associate the change with the arrival of the baby.
Information courtesy of the Blue Cross animal charity in the UK