Cats are not big fans of change. So imagine how confusing it must be when there’s suddenly a new family member brought home. From the cat’s point of view this whole event takes place without any warning. Many people incorrectly assume any negative behavior a cat displays toward the new baby is based on jealousy but that’s not true. It’s really confusion. If you use your “think like a cat” mentality you realize the confusion caused by this major change in the cat’s normal routine and how much his environment suddenly becomes unfamiliar. The cat wakes up one day to discover a strange-smelling, strange-sounding creature has just landed in his territory. And what’s worse is everyone around kitty suddenly starts acting all panicky and persists in shooing him away or yelling at him if he so much as attempts to approach this strange little hairless creature. Add to that, the fact no one seems to have time for the cat anymore. Much of his normal routine has been shifted.
The earlier you begin to ease your cat through the transition, the better it will be for all concerned. Here are some basics to get you started
Maintain Your Cat’s Normal Schedule
A big mistake that many expectant parents make is to shower the cat with an incredible amount of attention BEFORE the baby’s birth because they know they’re not going to have the luxury of that much free time later. What ends up happening though is your cat gets comfortable with the increased amount of playtime, cuddle time and attention but then when the baby comes his whole world falls apart. Create a schedule before the baby’s birth that you’ll be able to maintain afterward.
Help Your Cat Get Comfortable With Sounds
Babies cry and sometimes those cries are mighty ear-shattering. Download sound effects of a crying baby or record a friend’s baby crying. Start by playing the sound at a very low volume while your cat engages in something positive such as interactive playtime or receiving yummy food. Gradually, in subsequent training sessions, increase the volume.
Babies aren’t the only ones capable of uncomfortable sounds. There are countless baby toys and equipment designed to entertain and stimulate baby by generating sounds. Exersaucers, bouncy swings, musical mobiles, electronic playtime mats – and the list goes on. If you know your cat is jumpy around certain types of noises or you just want to be extra careful by giving him adequate time to adjust, purchase noise-generating baby equipment far enough in advance so you can set it up and give kitty time to investigate. Periodically turn certain toys on or jiggle them so your cat gets used to all the new things.
Do You Know Any Friends With Babies?
If so, invite them over (one at a time) so your cat adjust to the actual sound, smell and sight of what will be happening in his future. Don’t choose friends with toddlers. You want to expose your cat to a child who isn’t that mobile initially.
Respect Your Cat’s Nose
Allow your cat to investigate the new items you bring into the house as you prepare for the baby’s arrival. He’ll want to sniff the crib, changing table, clothing, toys, etc. Let him do a full investigation. If you sense he’s getting tense about any object coming into the house, distract him with a play session or offer a treat when he approaches the object. Clicker training works well here. Click and reward for any positive steps toward baby equipment or furniture. You can also take a clean sock, gently rub your cat around the mouth and then rub the corners of the furniture. Cats have scent glands on their cheeks that release pheromones (scent chemicals). The pheromones deposited during cheek-rubbing are “friendly.” Cats don’t typically cheek-rub objects unless they feel comfortable and secure. If you help your cat by doing some faux cheek-rubbing for him, you may help speed up his feeling of familiarity with the object.
And While We’re on the Subject of Your Cat’s Nose
Start wearing baby powder and baby lotion. This may help later on because the baby will have a scent similar to yours.
Know the Facts About the Litter Box During Your Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant you have most likely been advised by your doctor to not handle litter box duties (some poorly-informed doctors or relatives may even advise you to get rid of your cat). This is due to the risk to the fetus from toxoplasmosis. While toxoplasmosis is certainly a danger, it’s important you know the accurate information. You are at more of a risk of getting toxoplasmosis from handling raw meat, not properly washing your hands, or from using the same cutting board for vegetables that you use for raw meat. You also are also at risk from ingesting undercooked pork lamb or beef.