It’s an age-old question full of varying answers and often some biased malarky: is it ok for newborn babies to be around cats?
The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, new studies have shown that having a cat in the home may protect newborns against asthma and other respiratory issues.
You still might be having some doubts. How well is kitty going to adjust to having new, attention-hogging little person around? Are there specific things you need to do to get your cat used to your newborn baby?
Your furry ball of fun and your brand new bundle of joy should get along just fine. Before you know it, they might be best friends.
Cat and Baby Boy Sharing a Moment
Don’t Let Your Cat Wander
If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, it is recommended that you keep your cat indoors. Cats are natural hunters, and one of their favorite prey (rodents) tend to carry a parasite that causes a disease called Toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is the most widely spread parasite in developed countries such as the United States, the UK, and across Europe. Typically, it isn’t much to worry over. Healthy adults that are infected with toxoplasmosis rarely show any symptoms.
That said, toxoplasmosis can be quite problematic for newborns who have the disease transferred to them in utero. So, it is a good idea to limit your little furry hunter’s probability of carrying these parasites. If your cat isn’t wandering around hunting small animals, it won’t pick up the offending micro-passengers.
It doesn’t mean that you can never let your cat outside again. But for the duration of your pregnancy and while your newborn is still newborn, it’s best to be on the safe side.
Natural hunter prowling the neighborhood.
Prepare Your Cat Using Its Senses
There is a lot of visual, audio, and olfactory stimulation when it comes to a newborn baby. If all of this stimulation comes on at once; it will create a stressful environment for your beloved furball. So preparation for this may be the most crucial aspect of getting your cat used to your newborn. This process should start as soon as possible. Preferably, you should begin months before the baby is scheduled to arrive.
The idea is to encourage your cat (or cats) to love your baby before it even arrives. You can accomplish this by associating sights, smells, and sounds related to the baby with something your cat already loves: you.
Getting your cat used to your newborn’s smell might be the easiest of all. Simply start putting those scents on yourself and around the house. Start using baby powder; regularly apply the baby lotion that your newborn will be using; occasionally put some baby perfume in your hair.
You get the idea. Your furry roommate will start to associate these scents with you and as commonplace around the house. This way, when the baby comes home, kitty will immediately associate newborn with you and as a part of the house.
Don’t wait until the last moment to unbox your baby shower items or set up your nursery. If these items suddenly fill up the house, it can seem jarring to your feline friend. It’s a lot of change taking place quickly.
Instead, start unpacking and setting up the baby’s area early on. Little by little set everything up over the months. This way, your cat will slowly get used to your newborn’s things. It is much less stressful than the entire appearance of the house suddenly changing.
You can also use this as another scenting opportunity. Get those baby smells on the items you are setting up. And don’t discourage your cat from investigating the nursery or baby items.
I don’t have a cat’s hearing but I know that with my kids, the sound of a newborn baby crying incessantly, especially one with a case of colic is jarring at best. For many, it’s down right stressful.
You can help to keep your kitty from going insane by playing baby sounds on Youtube or from CDs available on Amazon. Start out with the volume low and slowly increase the level and duration over time. In doing so, you can help desensitize your cat to the sounds of a fussing baby. Your cat will most likely never enjoy the sounds of crying or get entirely used to it (I know I never did). But at least you can get your cat used to your newborn baby cries enough that they are mentally and emotionally prepared and don’t have spazz attack every time your baby has a crying fit.
Let kitty get used to all things baby.
Nip Bad Behavior in the Bud Beforehand
Is your cat a little totalitarian dictator bent on taking over the world? Ok, most cats are. But some are more civilized while executing their authority over the house. If your cat has some behavioral issues, it is best to deal with them now.
Once you have your baby, you will be juggling a lot. You might not have the time to correct your kitty once your bundle of joy is here. And to top things off, the arrival of your baby could exacerbate this bad behavior. So it’s best to nip this in the bud now. If you have some serious behavioral issues to contend with, you might want to ask your vet to refer you to a trusted cat behavior specialist (cat whisperer).
No More Roughhousing
I know this may be a bummer, but you should cut out the hand-play. Our cats often associate our hands with toys that they can chew on and scratch up because we do all of those fun things like tickle their belly when we know they don’t like that or palm their face to ruffle the fur on their head.
A babies skin is soft, supple, and much, much thinner than our adult skin. We want our cat to get used to our baby and be gentle with him or her, not think that your baby’s tiny little hands and arms are toys that they can pull their stealthy sneak attacks on.
Break the habit of playing with your cat using your hands. Instead, start incorporating toys into the mix. In doing this, you can retrain your kitty’s brain so that they no longer see human body parts as scratch pads.
Some cats are more aggressive with their teeth and claws than others. Your cat might not need any work in this department. On the other hand, your furry buddy might be one of those insatiable hand and ankle hunters. If this is the case, then I recommend Soft Claws to reduce the risk of any incidental scratches.
I had a big, blue-eyed Flame Point Siamese that was notoriously rough with his claws. So much so that I was worried about the safety of our labrador’s eyes. The Soft Claw nail caps were the perfect solution for our situation. Sure, Vince (that was the cat’s name) wasn’t fond of having his paws handled initially. But shortly after the nail caps were in place, he would forget they were even there and would happily go back to large dog hunting.
Plastic claw covers work wonders at taming those talons!
Don’t Give Extra Attention
A common mistake is to give your furry friend a bunch of attention now, to make up for the fact that the baby will be getting the lion’s share of affection soon. Overdoing the love will not get your cat used to your newborn. In fact, your cat will think that this is the new standard and will be even more disappointed when the baby arrives and attention drops off exponentially.
The last thing you want is the cat that you love to see your newborn baby as the reason why all of this extra attention suddenly stopped. They don’t reason like we do. As you well know, cats see the world in a way we can only guess at. And you don’t want your cat’s world to come crashing down around them.
Don’t over do the attention!
Slowly Alter Your Cat’s Schedule
This tip goes hand and hand with what we just mentioned above about attention. Cat’s love to be in control of their environment and they have fantastic inner clocks and thrive in a routine. To keep your kitty’s expectations reasonable, you can slowly alter your routine to something that will be closer to what should be expected once your baby arrives.
Adjusting your routine will go a long way in helping your cat get used to your newborn and all that comes along with it. Introducing an automatic feeder can reduce your cat’s expectations on specific feeding times from you.
Instead of having a specific time that you play with or cuddle your cat, randomize your kitty sessions over time. Your new baby will be a time-consuming responsibility, and you may run into difficulties trying to do things with your feline companion at specific times throughout the day. For a while, you may be reduced to catnaps instead of actual sleep. So, you can prepare your cat for this change by randomly laying down and cuddling him or her for a short period.
Another option is slowly to alter your cat’s schedule and stick to this new routine. You may have to ask for the help of friends or family members that kitty is familiar with to accomplish this feat. It might not be the best attention (because it isn’t always coming from you) but it is routine attention nonetheless.
They may not be able to tell time, but they know when you’re late!
The Introduction is Extremely Important
The manner in which you introduce your baby to your cat is critical. Remember, your cat was around first. And in their eyes, the new baby is taking over and getting all of the attention. Your cat probably won’t even associate your child with a human like you. They look different than you and smell different than you – not to mention all the little noises babies make.
With toddlers or slightly older kids, you can borrow some of the tactics used for introducing a dog into the house. But the key factor here is to make the introduction as nonchalant as possible. Make it seem like no big deal. There is already baby smells around the house. The landscape of your cat’s home has slowly changed; baby items popping up over time. You’ve already gotten your cat used to baby sounds. So this is just the next step in the process. Your cat should already be somewhat used to your newborn. Now it’s just time for them to meet.
Try to be as relaxed and as calm as possible while coming home with your new bundle of joy. Even though it is a crazy new experience, say your goosfrabas and relax before crossing the threshold of your home. If you come in stressed or full of anxiety, your feline partner will pick up on this and could associate the baby with something to be nervous about.
A happy baby looking up at his furry sibling in the cat tree.
When you let the two meet for the first time, Blue Cross for Pets recommends that you do so in a quiet room where your cat does not have a lot of associations. This means you should pick an area of the house that isn’t where your furball friend eats or sleeps or plays the most. Pick a neutral site.
Don’t force your cat to interact. But if he or she shows a calm demeanor, reward your feline companion with some gentle praise and maybe even a tasty treat. After your cat loses interest in this strange new small person, go about your business as usual. Remember, to exude the feeling that all of this is no big deal.
An extra step you can take to help your cat get used to your newborn’s arrival is to have a friend or family member bring a cloth are or piece of clothing that has your new baby’s scent on it home from the hospital. Doing this before you arrive home with your newborn will further help prepare your cat to accept the new family member into the household.
Make Sure Your Cat Has a Safe Place
There is usually a lot of traffic in the house shortly after a birth. Friends and family will want to come to a meet the new addition. But all of this extra movement is a break in the routine and can be stressful for our four-legged friends.
Make sure they have a quiet place where they can go and feel safe. A tall cat tree or kitty-condo is a great example of a safe space. Also, you might want to re-up on your catnip supply. A bit green can help relax your cat when it is upset.
Because babies squirm a lot, we tend to place them on a soft matt on or near floor level. A tall cat tree will also go a long way in helping your cat feel like it can get out of the ‘baby-zone.’
Cat’s need a place to feel safe.
There are quite a few things to consider and you do have a little bit of planning and work ahead of you. But if you use these eight tips, you can get your cat used to your newborn and accept your child into the family without too much difficulty.
Pretty soon your furry friend and your new bundle of joy could have a chance at being the best of friends.