Many new parents are surprised to learn that not every member of their household is thrilled with the arrival of a new baby—including your cat. Your pet is probably used to thinking of “your” house as their house. Taking a few simple steps before baby’s arrival can help make the transition smoother for the felines and the humans in the household:
- Before the baby arrives, decide whether your baby’s nursery will be off limits. If you don’t want the cat in your baby’s room, begin keeping the door closed so your cat will get used to the new rules.
- If you decide that the cat will be allowed in the nursery, you will want to keep her out of the crib for safety reasons. When you set up the crib, make it unwelcoming for your cat. To discourage your cat from sleeping in it, place double-sided tape, aluminum foil, or cardboard in the crib until baby comes home.
- Because cats are curious (and sometimes disturbed) by changes in their environments, introduce new objects, smells and sounds in advance, a few at a time. Let your cat sniff toys, washed clothing, and baby lotions. Play audio of a baby crying and cooing.
- If the mom-to-be is the cat’s primary caregiver, let other family members pitch in with feeding, grooming, and snuggling before the baby is born.
- Trim your cat’s nails regularly to become accustomed to having shorter nails.
- Make sure your cat’s vaccinations are up to date.
- The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) advises that you begin associating pokes and pats (the way your baby will “pet” your cat) with rewards. Give your cat a gentle poke, pat or pinch and then reward with a treat.
After baby comes home
- Keep your cat’s routine consistent. Keep feedings on time and keep the litter box clean or let your cat outside on schedule.
- The ASPCA recommends that you reward your cat for being around the baby. Keep a cat bed near the nursery and put a treat in the bed if your cat is nearby while you feed or rock your baby.
- Remove, but don’t punish your cat if they are in the baby’s room or near the baby. Punishment may result in your cat’s negative association with your baby.
- Close the nursery door while your baby sleeps. A newborn does not have the ability to move or reposition and a cuddly cat could make it difficult for your baby to breathe if the cat jumped into the crib.
- As your baby grows, teach respect for your cat. Show how your cat enjoys being petted, and do not allow hitting or tail pulling.
- Keep your cat’s routine consistent.
- Reward your cat for being near the baby, but out of the way.
- Introduce your cat to new objects, smells and sounds in advance.
- Teach your baby respect for your cat as time progresses.