Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My husband and I have three senior cats, all 15+, and we’re expecting our first human baby in about six weeks. Any advice on preparing the kitties for baby’s arrival?
Thomas: Well, Amanda, first of all, congratulations to you and your husband on your new baby! This is a big-deal time in your life–at least that’s what Mama tells us.
Bella: And thank you so much for being considerate of your cats’ needs and asking how to prepare a cat for a baby.
Tara: As you probably know, we cats aren’t huge fans of change, but it is quite possible for cats and a baby to live in harmony and have a great life together.
Thomas: First of all, your cats aren’t going to get jealous of your baby, although they will probably be confused and a bit stressed by the new arrival. But the problem isn’t the baby; the problem is the change in routine.
Bella: So the most important thing you can do to prepare a cat for a baby is to keep the cats’ normal schedule as much as possible. Continue feeding them at the same times and adjust your schedule of play and other cat-centric activities to one you’ll be able to maintain after your baby is born.
Tara: Cats are very aware of the way things smell, and strange smells can be stressful. In order to prepare your cat, start wearing baby powder and baby lotion, or whatever you plan to put on your baby’s body after he or she is born to keep them soft and clean.
Thomas: Cats are also really tuned in to sounds, and boy, are there going to be a lot of new sounds when the baby is born: crying and cooing, the noises of baby toys and exercisers–you name it, it’s all new. So if you’ve already been getting these things for your baby, play with them from time to time and show the cat how they sound.
Bella: Mama says there are dog training CDs especially to prepare dogs for the sounds of babies chatting and crying, but if a CD player is too old-school for you, there are plenty of ways you can download and play baby noises on your computer or your phone.
Tara: Bonus points if you can put the baby-noise-making thing in the baby’s crib or bassinet and let the cat get used to the sounds being especially present in certain spaces.
Thomas: One mistake a lot of parents-to-be make is that they don’t let the cats explore the nursery before the baby is born. It’s perfectly okay to let cats climb into cribs or nursing chairs, take a look at the baby changing table, and all that good stuff. Don’t leave the room totally off-limits because you’re going to be spending a lot of time in there.
Bella: Let your cat see the coming attractions. If you have friends who already have babies, have them bring their babies over for the cats to experience before yours is born. The babies can be various ages, from newborns to “almost ready to take their first steps.”
Tara: Getting back to the nose thing for a moment, you know how we always say a great way to introduce new cats is to introduce them to each other by their scents? Take a page from that book and rub your cats’ cheeks with a sock, then rub that scent on the baby’s furniture at cat nose level. The pheromones from our cheeks make us feel calm and relaxed, so taking some of your kitties’ scents and putting it on baby furniture can help, too.
Thomas: If you don’t want your cat to get in the crib, that’s quite natural. Many new mothers are worried that the cat will jump into the crib while the baby’s in it, and that is a legitimate concern for very new infants who can barely move on their own. Not because of that stupid old man’s tale that cats steal babies’ breath, mind you, but just for peace of mind that there won’t be a tragic accident, you can invest in a heavy-duty crib tent.
Bella: You can also keep the cats from getting interested in the crib as a play space by putting unpleasant things in there like empty soda cans and bottles or bubble wrap. If a cat has a less than ideal experience in the crib, the odds he’ll get in it are much lower.
Tara: It’s really wonderful to raise babies with cats from the day they’re born. It’s a lovely way to encourage children to develop compassion and love for animals from the time they’re really little, and sometimes, cats and babies can become friends for life. Mama’s little nieces met Thomas when they were very little, and they still ask about him today! One of Mama’s nieces is even the same age as Thomas!
Thomas: And those girls have become amazing young women, and Mama’s so very proud of them. And because she is, we are, too. Actually, I kind of miss those girls. They were always very nice to me, even if they were a little grabby in the early stages.
Bella: In any case, it’s not all that difficult to prepare a cat for a baby. But on top of all the other things you’re dealing with when you’re pregnant, it wouldn’t be a surprise for that to fall by the wayside. If you’re a mom who didn’t have a chance to prepare your cat, don’t be sad. We know things happen as they were meant to happen, and as long as you keep your cat and continue giving that cat a good home once your baby is born, you’re doing just fine!
Tara: So basically, Amanda, the way to prepare your cats for your new baby is to get them used to the sights, sounds and smells before the baby is born so they’re ready for the new arrival. And we thank you so very much for wanting to do the best you can by your feline family. Best of luck to you!
Thomas: Have you had a baby while having cats? How did it work out? Do you have some other tips on how to prepare a cat for a baby? Let us know in the comments!