Having a baby is a huge deal and a life-changing adaptation and, of course, with it comes anticipation and concern about many things. However, we are always alarmed when we hear that it has been suggested that your beloved cat may have to move out at this time. As with all things, a bit of planning and thinking ahead can make a lot of difference and also give you some peace of mind. Often the cat has been the baby of the household before the real thing comes along, so most owners want to ensure that this does not create any problems.
Cats are creatures of routine and predictability however, many take it all in their stride and enjoy the fact that the new mum will be around more and often be sitting down for long periods feeding the baby. They can be great company for a mum at home and can be amazingly good with children if they are introduced carefully and the baby is taught to respect the cat.
What can be done to help the cats feel safe and secure before the new arrival comes home?
- Ensure that any changes made to the home occur in a gradual fashion.
- Give the cat(s) a chance to investigate and accept new items to the home.
- Make the new item smell like part of the home by rubbing a cloth gently on the cat’s cheeks and the area in front of the ears during a relaxed time when you are stroking the cat. Then rub this cloth on new items. The cloth will pick up chemicals known as facial pheromones that your cat produces. The cat recognises these chemicals as familiar and they encourage the cat to feel safe and secure. Do not worry about these chemicals smelling on the new items, we as humans, cannot smell them.
- Ensure your cats have plenty of places to feel safe and secure out of the baby’s reach – cardboard boxes made into hidey holes, perches, shelves, igloo beds are all really useful.
- You may wish to change who feeds the cats before the baby is born if the new mum is unlikely to be able to continue to do so in the early days after giving birth. This minimises disruption to the cat(s) at a time when everything else is changing too.
- Let your cat(s) hear the sound of a baby’s cry by playing an audio clip (there are many freely available on the internet). Play it at a volume only just audible and, if your cats show no interest, you can gradually increase the volume. The idea is to help the cat to learn that such a sound is nothing to worry about – this is important it is going to be a very common noise in coming months!
Common sense and safety first
- Wash your hands after handling the cat or cleaning litter trays etc.
- Keep cats off kitchen surfaces.
- Keep the baby’s room as a no-go zone for the cat for your own peace of mind, especially when the baby is very small.
- Put a net over a baby basket or pram to prevent the cat from getting in.
- Keep up your cat’s preventive health care; flea and worm treatment.
- When your baby grows, babies and small children should always be supervised when close to cats in case they try to grasp the cat. The last thing your cat needs is his tail pulled. However, working together, you can teach your children that touching a cat needs to be done gently and with a flat palm. Placing your hand under your child’s hand can help with this while protecting your cat’s fur from any pulls.
By following some of the advice and trying to meet your cat’s need for safety and security, predictability and control, you are on the right path to ensuring your baby develops a long and lasting friendship with your cat(s) – after all, he or she is our part of our next generation of cat owners!
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