A newborn baby brings excitement and joy into the prospective parents’ lives, but the same cannot always be said about the pets in the home. Cats, especially, are creatures of habit, and any changes to their routine or environment, no matter how small, can be highly distressing.
The best thing you can do as a pregnant cat owner is to start preparing your kitty for the big change as soon as you know you’re pregnant. Keep reading to find our tips for making the transition into parenthood as easy and seamless on your kitty as possible.
First, we’ll show you how to prepare while you’re pregnant. Then, we’ll give you some tips for safely introducing your newly born baby to your cat. Finally, we’ll cover important health and safety concerns to be aware of. Let’s get started!
How to Prepare Your Cat While You’re Pregnant
One of the best things you can do to prepare your kitty for the baby’s arrival is to start your prep work well before you walk in the door with your baby in tow. Your goal is to familiarize your kitty with the incoming changes as soon as possible so that when your newborn comes home, the only difference in your cat’s environment will be the presence of the baby.
Use Baby Powder & Lotions
Cats are highly scent-oriented and use smells to communicate. They have scent glands throughout their bodies that rub on objects in your home to claim their territory. Have you ever witnessed your kitty scratching your sofa or felt them rub up on your leg? It’s using its scent glands to mark your furniture—and you—as its property.
When you bring home a newborn, there are bound to be lots of new scents in what used to be your kitty’s familiar spaces. You’ll be using lotions and baby powders daily, not to mention the dirty diapers you’ll be elbows deep in soon.
While you can’t familiarize your kitty with the diaper smell, you can get them used to the lotions and powders.
Don’t Keep the Nursery Off Limits
Try to get your nursery set up as soon as possible during the pregnancy. You don’t want to spend the days leading up to the delivery setting up furniture or painting the room. The commotion that comes with preparing a baby’s nursery can also be a source of stress for your kitty. Your goal should be to gradually change your pet’s space, not renovate a bedroom and bring home a loud and scary newborn all in one week.
Let your cat investigate the new items you’re setting up in the nursery. It may want to rub up on the crib or bassinet to mark its scent. Don’t be surprised if you find it snuggled into the crib for a cat nap or batting at the baby’s mobile. Supervise your cat while in the nursery, and keep the door closed when you cannot.
Introduce Your Cat to Other Babies
If you have friends or family members with newborns, invite them over for a few hours. This will give your cat some time to become familiar with the sounds and movements of a baby. You should offer your kitty tasty treats during and after these visits so it can create positive associations (baby equals treat).
If you don’t know anyone with babies, play recordings of baby noises (crying, screaming, giggling) on a low volume during your cat’s playtime. Increase the volume slightly every session until your cat doesn’t seem bothered by the noise.
Leave Your Cat’s Spaces Alone
In a perfect world, the baby’s room will be in an area of your home that your cat doesn’t frequent. You’ll probably want to keep the nursery off-limits to your cat for the first few months of your baby’s life. If your kitty’s favorite hangout happens to be in the room your baby will occupy, you may be dealing with a stressed-out kitty. You might consider setting up the baby’s things in a different spot in your home, at least initially.
How to Prepare Your Cat After Baby Is Born
It’s not only your life that will change drastically after you bring a baby into the world. Your cat’s life will also be turned upside for the first few months (or even years). So here are some tips on preparing your kitty for the baby’s arrival home after its birth.
Get It Acquainted With the Baby’s Scent
The new mom may have to spend a night or two in the hospital after her baby is born. You can use this time to your advantage to further help your kitty adjust when the baby comes home.
When dad comes home for the day, bring home something from the hospital with your baby’s smell. A receiving blanket works great for this. Give the blanket to your cat and let him sniff it to get acquainted with the newborn smell.
Another great trick is to pet your cat with an unworn pair of your newborn’s socks. Put the socks on your baby the day you bring it home from the hospital so when your pet sniffs the baby for the first time, it’ll smell like your cat.
Give It a Place to Hide
You need to have areas in your home your kitty can retreat to when the baby stresses it out.
You might already have some spaces set up, but make sure they’re in a room where you won’t be with the baby. A cat tree set up in the living room where you’ll be rocking the crying infant to sleep won’t offer much refuge. Move your cat’s favorite tree into the basement or spare bedroom for the time being.
You can also set up new hiding spots like an open cat carrier or, most cats’ personal favorite, an irresistible box.
Continue With Routines
Establish routines such as meal and play time well before baby’s arrival and continue with these routines when you come home with the wee one in tow. Try to keep meal times at the same time, and don’t forget to set aside time every day to pet and play with your cat.
All your time and attention may be focused on your human child, but don’t forget to meet the needs of your fur baby, too.
Use Calming Diffusers or Sprays
Several companies manufacture pheromone-based sprays and diffusers to help calm and de-stress anxious kitties. These drug-free solutions are safe and can help your cat adjust to its changing environment.
Feliway is one of the most popular options and is often recommended by vets. Their 30-day starter kit comes with a diffuser and refill to help reduce the signs of stress your kitty may be exhibiting.
How to Introduce Cats to Babies
Now that your baby is home and your kitty is getting used to the sights, sounds, and smells of newborns, you may wonder how you should introduce the two.
Let your kitty set the pace of the introduction. Never hold your cat against its will, as this won’t create positive associations with the baby. Even if it still wants to keep its distance from your child after six months, let it. The more in control your kitty feels, the better the introduction will go.
When it’s ready to be near your child, keep the interactions short and positive. Hold your baby in your arms and let your cat approach and sniff it. Be sure the space you’re in during the introduction phase is free of interruptions, loud noises, or distractions.
Offer treats or playtime whenever the baby is near and your pet isn’t showing signs of stress.
Pay close attention to your cat’s body language to determine how comfortable it is during these initial interactions. If there are any signs of stress, such as hissing or withdrawing, it’s time to move slower with the introduction phase.
Are There Any Health or Safety Concerns?
Cats can be dangerous to newborn babies in several ways.
First, cats can carry infectious diseases that can infect your child. These diseases, such as toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever, and toxocariasis, can be passed on through scratches or the cat’s feces.
Next, the cat can become aggressive to the point where it bites or scratches your child. Cats carry a lot of germs in their mouths and claws, so you must always be vigilant when it’s around your baby.
Finally, cats love to sleep in warm spots and may find that it loves nuzzling into your baby while it sleeps. While this makes for adorable pictures, it’s not safe as it could interfere with your baby’s breathing.
Can Cats Get Jealous of a New Baby?
Cats can absolutely become jealous of babies as they’re no longer the center of your attention. Cats are creatures of habit, and even small changes to their daily routine can lead to stress, anxiety, and jealous behaviors. It’s entirely normal for pets to become jealous when you bring the baby home, as they can become fearful of losing their territory and favorite humans.
You can prevent jealous behaviors by making gradual changes to your cat’s environment once you know you’re pregnant and not introducing them and the newborn too soon after birth.
Bringing home a newborn can be a frightening event for your cat, but with some time and forethought, you can make it a more comfortable experience. The sooner you start making strides towards keeping your cat’s space as zen and stress-free as possible, the sooner your kitty will be interested in meeting your new family member.
Featured Image Credit: aprilante, Shutterstock
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