As anyone will attest, having a baby is a big deal.
It tends to change your life completely and forever. It can enrich your life, and give it meaning. Children teach us as much as we teach them, really. And it is a natural part of life, for most people.
So – have you thought about how you’re going to break the news to your kitty?
Big Changes & Prep Time
This is going to be a joyous yet overwhelming time for you and your family. There is so much to prepare for – nurseries to paint, furniture to shop, books to read, lamaze classes to take, training your husband to clean out the litter box,…
And the same is true for your kitty. After all, it’s also your kitty’s territory that you’ll modify to welcome home your baby.
Some cats cope with this quite well. And, some will need some time and guidance along the way – before they can truly appreciate this great development in their lives. This will depend mostly on if your cat was properly socialised with kids and their general personality.
One of the most obvious and early changes in the house is going to be changing one room into a nursery and adding baby furniture. If this room is a favourite for your kitty, see if you can redirect them with cat trees and sleeping spots to another room they like.
As for the furniture, you’ll need a crib, a changing table, a rocking chair, and so on, to put into that new nursery. Adding furniture can be a bit stressful for some cats, especially if everything is changed at once. This, in turn, can lead to problem behaviour such as spraying.
One thing you can do to make this easier on them is to plug in a Feliway vaporiser. Or, you can spray the corners of the nursery with Feliway spray after you’re done painting. Then let them check out the room and furniture.
Also, you may want to stagger the addition of each piece of furniture, so that your cat has time to mark them with their facial pheromones and get used to their presence at their own pace.
Tip: to keep them from sleeping in the crib, put a cat tree next to to the crib as a viable alternative and fill the crib with stuff that is uncomfortable to sit on for your kitty.
Soon, the other change that will set in is a new routine and a new focus. You’ll be busy getting ready for the baby with doctor’s appointments, pregnancy classes, and you may change your work schedule. Things like cuddle sessions, play sessions and even feeding routines could get affected – and may therefore affect your kitty.
While these are all natural changes, it helps to be aware that change in routine can stress your kitty very much. And this bond will change even more once the baby is born, as you’ll be busy getting the hang of a new routine.
In other words, it is possible to fall into the trap of completely ignoring your kitty and their needs due to the demands of life as a new parent. One way to avoid this trap is to include your kitty in this experience, and actually plan them into your new routine.
Whatever it is you two love to share the most, make a little time for it.
It won’t just benefit them – it’ll relax and benefit you.
New Family Member
Let’s face it, babies make a lot of noise and take up a lot of their guardians attention – your cat is bound to be either terrified or intrigued and possibly both.
Your kitty will likely need some time to warm up to the weird screaming alien life form in their territory.
One way to start early, is to YouTube some ‘baby screaming vids’ and see how your kitty takes it. Feed them some treats while you do it, to make it a more positive experience. Fun fact, did you know that a cat’s keenest sense is their hearing? Yeeeeeup. So, make sure you really offset that noise level with some serious jack pot treats, affection and play.
Next, you could invite one of your friends with a baby, to let them have an on hand experience and see what a baby is all about. Keep that bag of treats nearby for maximum effect.
Depending on how your kitty responds (and if your friend are up for it), do this multiple times. The first time, they’re likely to keep their distance.
What you’re looking for is progression from fear to curiosity.
Doing This As A Family
Having a baby can bring up some pretty strong protective parental feelings. Some people worry, for instance, about the cat smothering their baby in their crib. And this is what motivates them to close off this room to their cat.
However, if the cat previously frequented the room, this can trigger some problems. Think vocalisation, scratching, even spraying the door once the baby – and all the smells and noise – arrive.
If you do decide to close off this room, maybe your kitty could still investigate the room – under supervision – just a couple of times, once the baby arrives. That way, they know what goes bump in the night in there. And hopefully it will reduce their anxiety level.
Introducing your cat to your new born baby
Generally speaking, the best way forward is to give your kitty the benefit of the doubt.
Nobody is saying you need to leave them alone with your child – particularly not at first. But do consider including them in this experience. Give them time to catch up on what is happening – this is a big one for both of you, after all.
When you come back from the hospital with your little one, introduce them to your kitty. When your cat runs up to you, happy to see you, let them get a whiff of the baby. See how they respond. Sure, they may hiss and run away at first, but that’s ok.
They’ll come around in time.
Once the baby is in their room, invite your kitty to join you there.
Try not to force them or push, just… have some treats ready and encourage them with your voice to check things out. Most cats will be fascinated by this little lump that you brought home with you, who smells of you and…well, something else. Also, you can put a familiar smelling cat tree in there so they can sit high up and feel safe, as they gaze down into the crib.
Do this just a couple of minutes, tops. Then leave the room together, but take your kitty with you, each time you go back in there, provided they’re up for it.
Lastly, consider putting a onesie with your baby’s smell under your kitty’s food bowl so the cat can associate their smell with all good things in the world.
Did you have a baby before?
How did you handle the baby vs cat issue?
And how well do your kids get along with the cat nowadays?