By Sandie Lee
Cats are creatures of habit, so it can be very upsetting when a new schedule-changer (aka, Baby) turns its world upside down. But there are ways to soften the emotional turmoil and prepare your cat for the new family member.
Keep a consistent kitty schedule
Babies are hectic, demanding little humans, and their needs can disrupt the entire household. Before your baby arrives, make sure your cat already has a regular, predictable routine for feeding, litter box cleaning, medication (as needed), and play time.
If you feel you may have trouble keeping Kitty’s schedule, enlist the help of those around you and invest in an automatic food dispenser. Having consistent times for daily activities will help your cat be more resilient when everything else gets crazy.
Slowly introduce new sights, sounds, and smells
Humans may take for granted all the new sights, sounds, and smells a new baby brings with it. But for cats (who – let’s face it – like to have things their way), all the strange, loud stimuli can be quite overwhelming.
To help conquer this, let your cat sniff the new baby items as you bring them into your home. Let Kitty rub her face on the items (marking) so they will be just a part of the home to her. After the baby is born, bring home an item from the hospital that the baby has been in contact with and let your cat sniff and mark it. This allows your cat to become used to the smell of the new baby before he comes into the house.
Did you know there’s a CD of baby sounds? (You can also download baby sounds for pets on iTunes.) This is excellent to play in the background so your cat can become accustomed to all the odd sounds a baby makes. Play this when your cat is relaxed or you’re cuddling with her so she knows there’s nothing to be afraid of.
No extra attention
As much as we may want to pre-emptively assuage our feelings of guilt, we have to resist the temptation to heap on extra attention to Kitty before the baby arrives.
Remember, cats are routine-based animals, so if you load on the affection to make up for a later deficit, she will come to expect this every day. To help ease Kitty into the “lesser” role, introduce more toys that will have her playing on her own, but still be sure to give her some one-on-one time as per your new schedule.
Allow exploration of the baby’s room
Don’t keep the baby’s room “off limits” before the child arrives; allow your cat to investigate so she becomes familiar with the baby’s items.
Although the idea of a cat “stealing a baby’s breathe” is a myth, it’s not a good idea to let your cat sleep with a new baby as they can curl up too close and restrict an infant’s airway. Some more jealous cats have even been known to urinate inside the crib, so to prevent these unwanted incidents, use a baby crib tent to keep your infant safe while your cat can still see what’s going on.
Cats love to be high up in the air, so invest in a tall scratch post that Kitty can call her own. This allows your cat to flee from a situation she may perceive as “too much” but still allows her to be a part of the goings-on of the family. Tall cat trees are also perfect perches for when baby becomes a toddler and may become too “grabby” for Kitty’s comfort.
Talk to your doctor about toxoplasmosis
One of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis is to keep your cat indoors. The Centers for Disease Control state that you’re more likely to contract toxoplasmosis from raw meat or gardening than from your cat, but talk to your doctor about your concerns to be on the safe side. You can also educate yourself by reading more about the disease here and here.
Still my baby
Cats are sensitive creatures, so even after the baby arrives be sure not to ignore or shoo away your feline pal. Up to this point, she may have been the center of attention and now she will have to get used to not getting the lion’s share of affection. Give your cat the love she craves when the baby is napping or when someone else in the household is tending to the baby.
Working out the time issues between Baby and Kitty will take some effort, but it will be well worth it when your child grows up with a loving pet that may just turn into a best friend.
Sandie Lee has been in the writing industry for over 20 years. She hails from a small city in Ontario, Canada where there are two seasons; winter and not winter! Her husband and two furbabies, Milo and Harry, make sure she is diligently writing each day.