Since I found out I was pregnant one of my biggest concerns has been how my first baby will cope. Charlie. I have had her since she was 9 weeks old and she is very much a Mummy’s girl!
It was a really big adjustment for her when we moved in with Jack and the kids. She still hides every time the kids are here because she just can’t handle the noise! She follows me around everywhere like my own personal daemon. She also sleeps in our bed with us every night (usually being spooned!).
I worry about how to keep the baby safe around her when it arrives. You hear horror stories of cats scratching babies or worse, suffocating them. I also worry about how to make sure she still feels loved and part of the family. I don’t want her to spend her whole life shut in one room or to feel neglected.
So what can be done? How much risk is there with a cat and a baby? How can we reach a happy compromise?
Getting the Cat Ready for Baby’s Arrival
Cats are creatures of habit and get easily stressed when there is change. This can lead to the cat acting out when there is a new baby, scratching, peeing outside of their litter tray etc. So how can we minimise the stress?
My two big concerns are sleeping arrangements and affection so I’ve covered them separately below. However, I’ve found lots of tips online for helping your cat adjust to a new baby. Here are the best 10:
- Introduce the cat to baby sounds before it arrives. Apparently you can get CDs of babies crying to prepare the cat (although this doesn’t sound like much fun for anyone!)
- Start wearing baby powder and lotion to get it used to baby smells.
- Establish a routine and stick to it. This means feeding your cat at the same time, emptying it’s litter tray and all those things. Essentially making sure your cat experiences as little change as possible.
- Make sure to stay on top of fleeing and worming treatment to avoid the spread of infection or diseases to baby before it’s born or after.
- Consider using calming sprays like feliway around the house to help the cat feel settled and relaxed.
- Prepare cat safe spaces that are out of reach of babies and where it can escape to. Currently Charlie escapes to our bedroom to get away from the kids but this won’t be possible when baby is here and sleeping in there! She does have a lovely big cat tree in the dining room though where she can perch up high.
- If mummy and baby stay in hospital for a bit bring home baby blankets or clothes that have been near baby for the cat to smell.
- If you have friends with babies invite them over so your cat can get used to the strange little creatures being in the house.
- Change your cats environment slowly. Bring in baby furniture in stages not all at once so the cat can get used to it. Let it smell it and get used to it!
- When the baby does arrive stay calm when cat and baby meet. Don’t panic and stress your cat out but equally never leave them unsupervised.
According to Cats Protection the risk of a cat suffocating a baby is very low. I had heard that cats were attracted to the smell of milk on baby’s breath but Cats Protection says cats dislike the smell of human breath altogether! The majority of websites say that the risk of a cat suffocating a baby is very low but do recommend using a net over the cot in case the cat is attracted to baby’s warmth.
I have even read sites where people say they continued to let their cat sleep on their bed with the cot in the same room! They also recommend introducing the cat to the baby products (e.g. cot) early on and training it to learn it’s not allowed in it. I’m not sure how well this would work with Charlie, she still jumps on the kitchen sides when our backs are turned and she knows she’s not allowed up there!
Whilst it is reassuring to know the risk of suffocation is low I am not convinced I would take the risk and let Charlie stay sleeping on our bed. So this leaves us two choices
a) get Charlie gradually used to not sleeping in our bed before baby arrives
– this would be very difficult! Whenever Charlie is shut out of the room she scratches up the carpet keeping us all awake (not to mention the damage to the carpet!)
b) make Charlie an outside cat at nighttime when baby arrives
– this worries us because cats are more at risk of injury or death outside at night. She’s also such a friendly beautiful cat we worry she will get stolen (or poisoned, we’ve all ready the stories!)
I’m leaning towards option b because shutting her in a room at night seems cruel. Jack is definitely leaning towards option a if we can find away to make it workable.
Charlie is used to getting lots of attention and affection. However, she has got to used to having less when the kids are here which took some time! At first when the kids would sit on my lap she would try to scratch or bite them to warn them off her space. Now she just hides in our bedroom (Currently a kid free zone) and waits for me to come and find her.
The rest of the time she is never more than a few feet away from me (even when i’m in the bath!)
Some sites recommend giving the cat lots of extra attention in the run up to baby coming. Some recommend withdrawing affection so they get used to you being less available before baby is here.
Neither seems a perfect solution to me. Personally I think we’re going to keep giving her lots of love and affection but maybe reduce it a bit. I’m also going to try and get Jack and the kids more involved in cuddle time (when she’ll let them).
Current mums what did you do to help your cat adjust and to protect baby? And expectant mothers, what are your plans?