Introducing Your Cat to Your New Baby

By

There are few events as magical — and as bewildering — as bringing home your new baby. Months of preparation have eased the pending transition for you and your spouse. But in the middle of all the distraction and preparation, probably snuggled right in the new crib, lies your beloved cat. How can you ensure that your newly enlarged family, both human and feline, is content and safe?

  • To avoid creating a “coveted zone” — one that’s off-limits to your cat, and therefore especially tempting — give your cat at least supervised access to the nursery. After some brief sniffing and investigation, he will probably decide it’s not particularly interesting.
  • To the chagrin of new parents, cats just love to sleep in the baby’s new crib or bassinet. As an alternative to keeping the cat out of a room at all times, consider a commercially available crib net or bassinet cover. Simply shooing the cat from this newly found nest may not be effective when you are out of shooing range, so prevention is the key — at least until your cat gets the message.
  • Give your cat plenty of time to get used to the smells of everything that will associated with the new baby. Leave a package of disposable diapers open on the nursery floor. Dab a little baby powder and lotion on your own arms, so your cat associates those smells with the comfort of you. Use those baby wipes on family members so they don’t smell unfamiliar.
  • Does your cat have a history of aggression toward people? If the answer is yes, or if he shows signs of agitation or aggression in response to the baby’s clothing or tape-recorded cries, seek the assistance of a behavioral specialist.
  • Trim your cat’s nails just before the baby arrives, while everyone is still calm.
  • After the baby is born but before she comes home, bring home some baby clothing or a blanket for your cat to investigate. A tape recording of crying sounds is also helpful for easing your cat’s introduction to this noisy new member of the family.
  • When the new baby arrives, your cat will probably show mild curiosity, and then go about the business of ignoring the newcomer. If there is any sign of threatening behavior (such as hissing, growling, swatting with claws), separate your cat from the baby until the problem can be addressed with a feline behaviorist.
  • Provide a “safe zone” for your cat to which he can retreat as needed. If this zone is far from his litter box or food bowls, consider placing extra ones of these in his safe area as well. Resist the urge to cajole a hiding cat from his hiding place; it will only increase his anxiety.
  • Because elimination habits are often the first to go when a cat is distressed, try to be especially vigilant about litter box use. It never hurts to add extra (and accessible) litter boxes and to keep them very clean. Cats urinating on baby items are probably marking; seek veterinary help for this anxiety-related behavior problem as soon as possible.
  • Try to keep your cat’s day-to-day schedule as consistent as possible, both before and after the baby arrives. Don’t overdo the attention or change feeding schedules. A daily session of quality time — whether it involves snuggling, grooming, playing or just talking to your cat — can do wonders.

Leave a Comment