Until now, your cat has probably been like your baby, but soon it will be time to bring home a human baby. The most important thing to remember is that your cat still needs time and attention from you.
Most cats adapt to a new baby; they recognize that gentleness is required with this little human and react to him or her very differently than to older humans. It is important to oversee interactions and to reinforce calm and gentle behaviors by rewarding your cat with treats and quiet praise.
Cats are creatures of habit and feel secure in the familiar. So having the smells and sounds of a new baby coupled with new people entering into your cat’s territory, may cause stress. Try to remain calm and give attention to your cat during quiet moments when the baby is asleep or in someone else’s care. Use this time to play, pet, or even nap with your cat.
Help your cat get used to your new baby’s scent by bringing home a blanket your newborn has been wrapped in for a few hours. – Dr. Ilona Rodan, DVM, DAVBP (Feline)
Before the Baby Arrives
- Decide with your partner whether or not your cat can go into the baby’s room. Consistency in the decision about allowing your cat into the baby’s room should be made now because cat’s like and learn from consistency and routine.
- If you decide not to allow your cat in the baby’s room when you are with the baby, start now.
- Reward your cat by tossing a treat in the opposite direction from the room before shutting the door.
- Also reinforce with calm praise.
- When you leave the baby’s room, spend quality time with your cat.
- If there is enough time before your baby is born, gradually prepare the baby’s room so your cat can slowly adjust.
- If you decide your cat will be allowed to come into the room with you, let your cat come in with you now if she so chooses to do so. Allow her to smell all the new items and baby blankets. Remain calm and teach your cat that they can come in with you and to reward them for leaving when you do.
The Power of Smell
Since smells will be different when the baby comes home, here are some steps you can take to help your cat:
- Scent is the most important sense for all cats – they live in a cloud of smells and pheromones.
- Place a Feliway® diffuser just outside of the baby’s room or nearby. Feliway® is a synthetic feline pheromone that can help make your cat feel safer with changes in the environment.
- If the baby stays in the hospital for several hours, have the father or other very familiar person bring home a baby blanket that smells like the newborn for the cat to smell. Don’t force your cat to smell it, but leave it on the floor a few feet away from where your cat rests or plays. If your cat is calm, you can use the blanket to wipe your cat’s cheeks and body so that the smell is the same as the baby’s.
Your Baby is Coming Home
- Congratulations! What an exciting time! Remember that your cat is still an important family member and needs attention too.
- Because smell is so important to cats, don’t be surprised if your cat sniffs you and all other items when coming home.
- Watch your cat’s body language to make sure she is calm and interested rather than upset or aroused. Never force interactions!
- It is important to monitor interactions between your cat and baby.
- Keeping the door closed to the baby’s room is best, and having a baby monitor can alleviate your concerns.
- This is a time of great excitement, new emotions, and the outpouring of love. Never forget that your cat still needs love and attention.
- Laying with your cat even for 2-3 minutes, 3 times daily will help her still feel like an important family member.
- Keeping a similar schedule for feeding and scooping litter boxes will also help your cat adjust.
If you have questions or need more information, contact your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.