When there’s a baby on the way, we all have a ton of work to do. Setting up the nursery, buying the clothes, planning the baby shower…the list goes on. However, we also have to mentally prepare for the upcoming new member of the family. That includes preparing the older children along with the cat.
That’s right; your cat is just as much a part of the family as anyone else. We may not realize this straightaway, but the changes in the home are going to affect our domestic felines as well. Most cats love their comfort and routine, so having a new baby’s things strewn all over and the incessant crying noise might disturb the cat more than anyone else.
Fortunately, there are ways to prepare your cat for the new arrival. Check out the steps below to help you get started:
As soon as you see that positive pregnancy test or get news of an adoptive child on the way, start preparing for the upcoming changes. If you want your cat to get used to the changes, work on them about four months before the due date.
Leaving the preps too late can result in an unhappy and confused cat. This isn’t something that you want to deal with on top of the responsibility of having a newborn in the house. Plus, working on some of these changes can also help other family members get used to the idea of this new chapter in their lives. If you have young children at home already, consider including them in your preparations. This way, they’d be able to settle down with the new baby as peacefully and smoothly as the cat.
Playing Only With Toys
Cat lovers might enjoy the gentle nibbles their pet gives them on the hand, fingers, or feet. This might seem like a cute habit now, but remember that a baby’s much more sensitive to those claws and teeth.
Even if you think your cat’s very gentle while biting or scratching in play, this is not a habit you want them to practice on the baby. It’s hence time to stop letting the cat play with anything other than certain designated toys. By the time the baby arrives, the training should be complete.
Playing Baby Sounds
Your cat will soon have to put up with sounds they’re not currently used to. This includes the crying, screaming, and gurgling from a baby. You can lessen the shock and even make it so that the cat barely notices a difference after the baby comes home.
Make use of your mobile devices and perhaps a smart home system like Alexa to play baby sounds throughout the day. Don’t start off with high volumes; begin with just a barely audible sound and work your way up. Slowly but surely, your cat will get used to the sounds.
During this exercise, make sure that your feline friend feels comfortable, safe, and calm. Once they seem fine with a certain volume level, make the noises a little bit louder. If the cat seems agitated or disturbed, try playing, stroking, cuddling, or just snuggling up with them. This will convey a message to the cat that everything’s fine and there’s no danger.
Let The Cat Explore
Any cat would want to explore and investigate new items in their homes. The new stuff that you get for your baby will naturally arouse their curiosity as well.
Once you get everything inside, it’s best to let the cat climb all over the items and do away with any doubts of a threat. This goes for the cot, bassinet, baby powder, formula, soap, shampoo, etc. You may want to use some of the bathing items to get your cat used to the smell. Eventually, the smell of the new items will mingle with the ‘safe’ smell that the cat associates with home.
You can also try to make the new stuff seem more familiar by wiping a cloth on the cat’s head and using the same cloth to wipe the baby’s things.
Separate The Toys
Your baby’s toys and the cat’s toys might look very similar and even have the same functions. However, make sure you don’t mix the two. It’s a good idea to have a safe and quiet comfort zone for the cat, where you can also store its toys.
This zone will help your cat escape whenever they feel like the place is getting too crowded or noisy. Don’t completely isolate them, though. Bring out some of the cat’s toys at some point in the day and make sure to give them some one-on-one play time.
Ensuring Good Health
Before you introduce your cat to your baby, make sure the pet is in good physical condition. The cat has to be dewormed beforehand and its coat should be free of lice. If you suspect any developing illness, get the cat to the vet before introducing them to the baby. We don’t want the cat to be in pain or get irritated in any way. If this is the case, their tolerance towards the baby might be lowered. As a result, they might start spraying or acting aggressively.
Getting Professional Help
If your cat has certain behavioral issues from the start, simply training at home might not be enough. You might be worried about their behavior in general, or remember the problems you had with them the last time a new baby joined the family.
The issues might get out of hand again, so you can try looking for a pet behavior counselor in your area. If such an expert is not available, consult your vet for other options.
The Actual Introduction
After the preparations are complete, it’s time to make the actual introduction. When the baby and cat first meet, make sure they’re in a calm, quiet room that isn’t the cat’s domain. It shouldn’t be a place where the cat eats, sleeps, or plays frequently. Also, make sure there aren’t outsiders around, such as people who come to see the baby. Your cat isn’t familiar with them, so you don’t want to introduce the baby while they’re around.
Take a baby in your arms and bring them a bit close to the cat. The feline would probably sniff them or paw at them. Make sure you praise every action of the cat and give them a few treats if they remain calm.
Usually, a cat will remain interested in the baby for just a few seconds. They would then turn to other things in their daily routine. Don’t be upset if your cat ignores and even runs from your baby for some time. If you force them to interact, the kitty will just be under more stress.
You can try to familiarize the cat’s perception of the baby by having the feline smell something like the receiving blanket, the cot bedding, etc. Other than that, simply go with the flow and act like everything’s normal. The cat should soon get used to the newcomer and do the same.
While your new baby might take up a lot of attention, make sure to set aside some time for your cat. Ideally, you should give the same sort of attention and time that you did before the baby came along. You can try changing their feeding routine beforehand so that it matches your new schedule. The same goes for playing, litter box cleaning, grooming, etc.
Cats are Friendly
When handling a new baby with a cat in the house, keep in mind that the feline was there first. Put yourself in your pet’s shoes and imagine how you would feel if a wailing, screaming alien was brought into your home and showered with more love than yourself! The erratic movements of an infant can also cause anxiety in a cat, so this is the time to show the most understanding. Don’t give up hope, but start training your cat for your own ease right away.
A little planning in advance can do wonders for helping your cat accept your new baby right away. With all the changes in place beforehand, your furry family member will hopefully not mind the baby so much. At the same time, it’s essential to train your baby about dealing with the cat properly as soon as they’re able to understand such concepts.