It’s a two-way street when it comes to introducing babies to cats. The truth is that cats must be introduced to babies while babies are growing up. Cats are more skittish around new babies in the house because they are aware that plenty has changed in their home very quickly. To help the baby and cat relationship get off to a good start, it’s important to prepare the cat first, and then deal with cat and baby relationship next. Once the baby can crawl and toddle around, that’s when the cat will need some protection. Babies are notorious for pulling ears and whiskers, grabbing paws and tails, and chasing kitty around as soon as they can toddle. These 20 tips offer a timeline of sorts to help manage the process that introducing baby and cat really is.
Buy cat toys to help keep kitty entertained when your newborn keeps you too exhausted to play.
This is a shopping trip which should be accomplished long before your due date. Buy a collection of cat toys and hide them from your cat until after your baby comes home. Be certain to include cat favorites such as sturdy feather toys and items filled with catnip. Cats enjoy playing, but can become easily bored with the toys they have. They may also have enjoyed a regular play time with you, and expect you to entertain them. If you have the brand-new toys hidden, you can bring them out one at a time and make up for not having the energy for play time. Your cat will forgive you for a while.
Let your cat help you set up the nursery.
Since you will most likely be setting up the nursery in a space your cat may feels she owns, you may need to soften the blow of taking it away. You can do this by allowing your cat to sniff and snoop around the new furnishings as you set them up. That way, all the new smells will become old ones very quickly. Your cat’s curiosity may be satisfied enough so that you will be able to close the door and reroute her long before the baby arrives. You don’t want to deal with the baby and a disgruntled cat at the same time.
Let your cat cuddle by your pregnant belly.
Some mothers-to-be have discovered that their cat can hear womb sounds and see or feel baby kicks from inside the womb. For some cats, this seems to be comforting, or at least a curiosity. Some cats will readily curl up near a pregnant belly and have a blissful doze, while others are entertained by the faint sounds and motions emanating from within. Allowing a cat to get to know baby before it’s born might help the cat adjust to baby afterwards, too.
Set up a cat area where baby never goes.
Cats can be territorial. They don’t like to have their eating area be cramped together with their litter box. They also appreciate having spaces where they can hide away or view things from the highest places in a room. Before your baby arrives, it can be helpful to make a special place for your cat to be a cat without the baby in the way. While you are setting up your nursery, set up cat friendly items such as a cat tower or window perch in a room that will be off limits to your baby. This will give your cat a place to retreat, and it will be used to it long before baby comes home and cramps your schedules. Don’t make the mistake of displacing your cat’s favorite places to make room for the baby. Your cat will be resentful, and less likely to get along with the new arrival.
Let your cat check out an item of infant clothing or a used receiving blanket for your cat in a quiet spot.
Not only is a cat’s hearing sensitive, but it’s ability to smell is acute. Some cat owners have followed the lead of dog owners by bringing home some newborn clothing items from the hospital. The day before the baby comes home is a great time to let your cat quietly check out the scent of the new baby. That way, when the baby arrives, the cat will already be familiar with its scent and may be more likely to accept it easily. This task can easily be given to a close family member or friend if mother and father are very busy with the baby at the hospital.
When you bring baby home the first time, plan for one person to greet the cat, while the other holds the baby.
Many kitties come to greet their owners when they arrive home. If this is a normal part of your arrival routine, then be certain to give plenty of affection to your cat when you step in the house with the baby for the first time. You don’t want to frighten your cat or make him feel jealous. He needs to know that the welcome home routine is available for him, even though he will know immediately that a new someone is with you. Give him plenty of cuddles, and take baby go off to his own space. There’s plenty of time to introduce baby to cat once everyone is inside and cat has had a brief bit of attention.
Make sure to hold baby at kitty’s level for a good first sniff.
A hello sniff is the first way kitty gets used to the new arrival. If you’ve prepped the house early by bringing home one of baby’s hospital blankets for kitty to inspect, she will recognize baby’s scent. When she meets baby, she will recognize the scent as familiar, and be less likely to hiss or growl at baby. But if kitty starts to hiss or growl, don’t punish her, just move baby carefully away and try again another time when kitty is much calmer.
Curl up with your cat when your baby is napping.
Your cat may have had a long history of curling up with you. When baby comes home, your time will be focused on caring for baby’s needs. But your cat may miss your attention and become jealous. If you are lucky enough to sit for a moment, invite your cat to join you. You may discover that with the baby asleep, your cat is very willing to jump onto your lap for a good scratch on the ears.
Calm your cat when your baby’s crying startles him.
Cats are extremely sensitive to sound. Their own meows and vocalizations often sound very much like babies crying. That’s why a baby crying might startle or upset a cat. To calm both your baby and your cat at the same time, go to the baby first. You may need to change a diaper, nurse the baby or just have a good hug. You may notice that your cat follows you because his curiosity has gotten the better of him, or you may discover that he’s watching from a distance. If he hasn’t completely run away, encourage him to come and “visit” the baby. Sit down with the baby so the cat can see him clearly. Talk to the baby in soothing tones and include the cat if he’s there. This way, the cat can get used to the baby’s sounds, and be calmed while you calm the baby.
Make the baby’s crib and changing table off-limits.
Cats adore jumping into baby cribs, but it’s not safe for babies. Cat’s enjoy curling up next to a warm baby, but don’t realize that newborns cannot move their heads away from a furry cat to breath. Protect your baby by using some effective cat repellents. Try adding mosquito netting over the crib. Line the crib and changing table with sticky strips for furniture. You can buy them at pet stores. They are effective because cats really hate getting their paws sticky.
Baby’s on the Move – Give your cat a treat when you are rocking your baby.
For the first four months of your baby’s life, much of what you do will be taking care of the baby and keeping your cat entertained. You will want to select activities which help your cat to associate good things with your baby. Cat treats offer little morsels of love, and giving them when you are spending quiet time with your baby gives the cat the affection and attention she craves. Some cat owners find that they can make a routine of rocking and treating. They rock for a certain number of counts or a set period of time, and then reward their cat with a treat. They alternate rocking time with treat giving time. It’s a very effective way of keeping the cat entertained and included at the same time. The only issue is to make certain that the cat stays away from the legs of the rocking chair.
When your baby is playing on a blanket on the floor, add a play toy for your cat.
The idea is to associate fun with your baby. Your cat will quickly learn that baby’s play time can be cat’s fun time too. You can focus the cat on enjoyable activities and this will give you time to spend with your baby, too. Some of what you do will depend on the age of your cat. An older cat may be content to watch your baby’s actions. A younger cat may completely enjoy more active play. To set up this kind of play time, select a large, thick blanket with enough room for all of you. Select one or two cat toys which will be only used for this playtime. Your cat will associate those toys with play time and come to associate baby and even the playtime blanket as fun. Play with the cat until he loses interest, or the baby needs attention. When playtime is finished, pick up the toys and put them away until the next session. Do the same with the blanket. Use it only for playtime with the cat. Choosing washable toys and blankets is the best idea, because they can be washed regularly to keep the play area and items clean for the baby. If time permits, wash these items after each play session for best hygiene.
At about age 5 to 6 months, help your baby roll a ball to your cat.
Your cat will love playing with the ball, and the activity should help to develop hand to eye coordination for your baby. You can roll the ball until you, your baby, or the cat tires of the activity. It’s simple and effective. It’s very important to allow your baby to only play with the cat’s ball. All other cat toys should be off limits to your baby. They are germ-covered items which shouldn’t be handled except by the cat and adults. Wash your baby’s hands after play time. Also, be aware that your cat may try to keep the toys away from the baby. These toys do belong to the cat, after all, and she knows it. She may try to protect her stash by scratching or nipping at your baby. If this behavior happens, put her toys into a space where the baby doesn’t go. Also, reserve the cat’s ball for playtime with the baby, so the cat will feel less protective of this one item. That may help baby and cat to bond over playtime as long as the ball lasts.
Allow your cat to be within your baby’s eyesight.
If your cat is within eyesight, your baby may decide to try to crawl toward it. It’s a great way to encourage healthy exercise for your baby. Your cat may run away at first, or simply decide to wait and see what will happen. Happy baby squeals might scare your cat for a time, or he might decide to come closer to play. Just be certain to keep an eye on both and be ready to pick up your baby if your cat becomes fearful. You’ll know it’s time to end the game if your cat hisses or flattens its ears.
If your cat whines or crouches when baby moves, don’t punish your cat.
These generally are signs of fear. Cats use aggressive actions to tell you they are scared. Just separate your baby from your cat. Avoid any temptation to yell at the cat, chase him away or hurt him. You don’t want to set up adverse feelings and associate them with times your baby and cat are together. This is very important to remember. Cats who display these aggressive behaviors often are already frightened. If you add the pain of punishment to the moment, your cat may never get along with your baby again. If it happens often, ask your vet about it. There are medications and sprays to calm anxious cats. Some may be only anxious because the baby has come into their space, and they need more time to understand what’s happening. It’s very important to maintain positive interactions between your baby and cat. You don’t want to alienate the cat, or create a condition which requires relocating the cat. It’s much better to create a welcoming home for all the family members, and that includes your cat. Also, if you have more than one cat, remember that each one is very likely to react to the new baby in very different ways. You may have to give one cat extra attention for a while until things settle into a more regular routine in your home.
Toddlers and Temptation – Begin with a gentle pat.
Show baby how to touch your cat softly. Hold your toddler’s hand and pet the cat together, saying words like “soft” or “gentle”. Be certain you demonstrate what you mean. You must manage to keep a firm grip on your toddler’s hand so that baby cannot hurt the cat, but at the same time you must control the speed and weight you use with baby’s hand. If you don’t your baby will either be excited or fearful and try to swat at the cat. This is not the meeting you want. Nothing will frighten them both more than if baby swats the cat and the cat fights back with a loud hiss or nasty bite. Controlling the first petting experience can lead to plenty of gentle and loving interactions in the future, once baby grows up enough to understand that the cat, and nobody else for that matter, appreciates a whack on the nose.
Keep baby’s fingers away from grabbing kitty’s tail.
Nothing is more enticing than a swirling, swaying cat’s tail. Cats use their tails very effectively to convey affection, demand attention, or show anger or fear. A cat tail held high is the signal of a happy cat. A cat tail wrapped around your leg means affection or “I want something from you.” Babies see kitty’s tail as a fascinating toy to grab. Once grabbed, baby doesn’t have the coordination to let go. Baby’s fingers can clamp down painfully on kitty’s tail, and that means kitty’s head full of sharp teeth will swirl around and sink into baby’s hand. This can all happen in mere seconds. Protect both by teaching baby to leave kitty’s tail alone. Kitty’s tail should be off limits from every child. After all, it’s the closest part of kitty’s body to the litter box, and that itself should be reason enough to avoid the tail.
Teach baby how to stroke kitty’s ears.
It’s probably a very good idea to prepare kitty for baby’s uncoordinated hands and fingers. Gently pulling on fur and ears will give kitty an idea of how that feels before baby takes a turn. Some owners add treats to make it a game. Offer one kitty treat in exchange for each gentle pull. Avoid paws until baby is old enough to pull away before being scratched by a focused claw. It’s an absolute must to have your kitty’s claws clipped professionally to keep them short while baby is growing up. It’s also a very good idea to keep your kitty indoors so that it is less able to pick up bacteria and diseases from the outdoors and carry them inside to your baby.
Have baby watch you fill kitty’s water bowl.
You can fill your kitty’s water bowl on a schedule, which will help your baby to get used to the rhythms of life in your home. You can talk to your baby about taking good care of kitty and being certain that clean water is always available for kitty’s good health. When your baby becomes a child, he or she will be better prepared to help with this easy chore.
Let baby help fill kitty’s dry food bowl, but put it in a high place for kitty, not baby, to eat.
Another primary caregiving chore is feeding your kitty. Since veterinarians often recommend feeding wet food at scheduled intervals, while making dry food available for nibbles around the clock, allowing a toddler to fill kitty’s bowl with dry food is another way of providing a chore that teaches care for animals. The key issue here, however, is that many toddlers love to put things in their mouths. They often learn by tasting. But, you don’t want your child eating cat food. You should keep the food and litter box in a place where baby cannot reach it unless you help. The laundry room or the basement are good spots. Some toddlers think of litter boxes as sand boxes and try to play in them. Wise parents remove litter boxes to places where toddlers can’t find them. Washing hands after feeding pets is a must. Teaching toddlers to wash after playing with cats is also a must. You don’t want germs to travel, so don’t let your cat lick your toddler’s hands, face or feet until they are old enough to know that washing always comes after playing with kitty.