on Monday, October 16, 2017
Cats and children can be a wonderful thing! Despite what a lot of people believe, cats are social animals and love “their” people.
When a new baby is coming into the family, you can do things to prepare the cat for this so that the cat can more easily adjust to having a new family member around. For example:
- Set up the nursery early and let your cat explore the room. Keep the cat out of the crib from the day the crib is set up – and never allow the cat to be in the crib. Babies R Us has “crib covers” – netting that fits over the crib which would ensure your cat couldn’t get in the crib – these are a great tool to have from the day the crib is set up! (If you don’t want to use the crib cover – you can make the inside of the crib a really unattractive place for the cat to sleep by filling the crib with cans with coins in them so when they move they make a loud noise, etc. – but crib covers are the best way to ensure they stay out of the crib). Note: There are a lot of myths about cats “sucking the breath out of” babies. Cats want to get into a crib because babies are warm, and they smell of milk. If you keep the cat out of the crib from day one (and use the crib cover) you won’t have to worry about the cat even getting into the crib to curl up next to the baby. IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT BABIES AND CATS SHOULD NEVER BE LEFT ALONE UNSUPERVISED.
- You can put a screen door on the babies room by taking the regular door off the hinges and storing it until later. Mount the screen door just as if it were the permanent door – and it latches. This allows you to have the door shut, but with it being screen you can see and hear inside the room.
- Get powders and baby oils that you will be using for your baby, and have them out and opened early. This will get the cat used to some of the smells of the baby before he/she comes home. Put some on you (and those in the household) so that the cat gets used to their owners having that smell on them.
- Plan early and start setting times aside now that you play with your cat. For example, if after the baby is born you anticipate you will be able to play with your cat and spend time with your cat (just you and the cat) in the morning before the baby gets up; and at night after the baby goes to sleep – start spending 10 minutes now during those times to play with your cat on that one-on-one time. This will get your cat prepared for that being “his” time – and keep those one-on-one times going after the baby is born. Don’t over compensate before the baby comes and play with the cat all the time – because once the baby is here you won’t have that kind of time and then the cat won’t get the attention he was used to. Set play times now and ensure you play with your cat at those times, before and after the baby is here. Cats need many, many toys! Make sure the cat has lots of toys that they can play with to amuse themselves when you are busy. (Make sure once your baby starts to crawl that the toys aren’t of the kind that the baby can put in his/her mouth and swallow.) Make sure that you do not ever use your fingers, feet, etc. to play with your cat. Only use toys such as “fishing poles” or balls to play with your cat. Note: the Animal Rescue League’s Animal House retail store (located inside the ARL) has all cat appropriate toys for sale so this is a place you can buy a toy and know it is appropriate for your cat and teaching your cat the appropriate play behaviors. These are toys that aren’t connected to a human body. This will ensure that when your child grows and puts his/her fingers out reaching for something, the cat won’t view those fingers/toes, etc. as a “toy”. If you are playing with your cat now by using fingers, etc. stop this immediately and start re-training your cat to play with cat toys.
- Make certain the litterbox and the food and water bowls are where they will need to be after the baby comes home. Make sure they are located in places where a crawling baby won’t be able to get to so that your cat can maintain it’s territory and not feel invaded. If this is something you are going to have to move when the baby is born, move it now so that the cat doesn’t equate the baby coming home with his/her litterbox or food/water bowls being moved. If you can leave the litterbox and/or food and water bowls where they are – then leave them where they are. Not moving them at all is best if possible.
- Tape the sound of a baby crying and start playing it off and on now. This will get your cat used to the sound. Vary the times of day and night that you play it (loudly) so the cat gets used to the sounds at any time of the day and night. (You can tape a crying baby off of a movie; or go to your doctor’s office – ask permission – but tape the sound of crying babies.)
- You can buy a toy doll that crawls, etc. Buy one and have it crawl around your house. Reward the cat with treats or praise when the cat interacts appropriately with the toy doll. (Do NOT punish the cat if it reacts badly, just remove the doll and try it again until appropriate behavior is demonstrated – then reward the cat.) Hold the doll as you would a baby, rock the doll, etc. When the baby comes home, these actions will be normal to your cat.
After the baby is born and comes home, there are also many things you can do to ease the transition for your cat. For example:
- When visitors come to the house, have them pay attention to the baby and the cat (if the cat was open to visitors before the baby was born).
- 2. When the cat is in the room with the baby; give the cats treats – and special attention. You want to reward the cat with the things he/she likes, i.e. treats, attention, toys, etc. whenever the baby is around. You want the cat to love having the baby around because he/she gets all these really cool rewards! (Do NOT punish the cat for inappropriate behavior, just remove the cat or the baby from the room. If you punish the cat, the cat will associate being punished with the baby and the cat’s acceptance of the baby will just take that much longer.)
- Be sure and spend those 10 minutes in the morning and/or at night for one-on-one time with your cat! (As described in 4. above.)
- If your cat slept on your bed with you at night before the baby was born, make sure the cat still gets to do that. Try not to change the things the cat normally did in his/her routine.
- As the baby starts to crawl and walk and has an interest in the cat – ensure that you teach your child not to pull the cat’s tail, poke at the cat, etc. Cats and kids can have wonderful relationships with each other!
These are just a few of the things you can do to prepare your cat. Cats and babies can work! For more information or for help, please come to one of the sessions held at Babies R Us, or call the Animal Rescue League!