When you are expecting to have a baby and you have a cat, you may wonder how life will change and whether your cat will have trouble adjusting. But with some careful preparation and planning, you can pave the way to healthy interaction between your cat and your new baby.
This post explains how to approach the introduction of a new person to your cat and how to maintain sensitivity and respect for your cat's comfort level. By taking it slowly in a safe and secure environment filled with plenty of interactive cat toys, you can help your cat become familiar and comfortable with the new person over time.
Preparing Your Cat for the New Arrival
You may be babyproofing your house and outfitting a nursery to prepare for your new arrival, but your house won’t be ready until you also prepare your cat for the major change that is coming. Preparing your cat for the arrival of a new baby in the house is an important process so that your cat’s first introduction to your baby goes smoothly. With some preparation and adjustments included in these tips, you give your cat the best opportunity to adjust:
- Begin gradual adjustments. Begin making changes to your cat's routine and environment gradually, well before the baby arrives. This can help your cat adjust more easily to the upcoming changes. If you think you’ll change when you feed your cat or plan to restrict access to certain areas, start implementing these changes now so that you can do them gradually.
- Take your cat for a check-up at the vet. Schedule a visit to the veterinarian to ensure your cat is in good health and up to date on vaccinations. Discuss any concerns or questions you may have about your cat's behavior or the introduction of a new baby.
- Create a safe space. Set up a designated safe and comfortable space for your cat where they can retreat when they feel overwhelmed or need some alone time. This could be a separate room or away from the hubbub that a new baby brings. Be sure they have access to their bed, litter box, food, water, and interactive cat toys.
- Familiarize your cat with baby-related items. Allow your cat to become familiar with baby-related items such as cribs, strollers, bassinets, and baby toys. Let them sniff and explore these items under supervision. This can help your cat become accustomed to the new scents and objects associated with the baby.
- Expose them to baby sounds and smells. Gradually expose your cat to recorded baby sounds, such as crying or cooing, so they can get used to these new noises. Additionally, introduce your cat to baby-related scents, such as baby lotions or powders, so that your cat can get used to these new sensations.
- Add in desensitization exercises. A new baby means more than just new sights and sounds. You’ll be carrying the baby around, perhaps rocking the baby in a chair, or using baby items that vibrate and move. So gradually expose your cat to scenarios that simulate these common baby-related activities. Wrap a doll in a blanket to carry around, use a rocking chair, or place the doll in the baby items to help your cat become accustomed to these different habits that will soon be everyday activities in your house.
Helping Your Cat Adjust to a New Member of the Family
After you’ve prepared for your cat to meet your baby, you need to consider how you’ll introduce the two for the first time. You also need to set up a plan for your cat to adjust to the new — and changing — dynamic in your house.
These tips can help give you a smooth transition that takes into account your cat’s unique needs as well as those of your growing family:
- Use gradual introductions. When bringing the baby home, have someone else hold the baby while you greet the cat. Give the cat attention, treats, or playtime for reassurance and to prevent any feelings of neglect. Slowly introduce the cat to the baby in short, supervised sessions, allowing the cat to approach at their own pace.
- Let your cat set the pace of the introduction. As tempting as it may be to show your baby to your cat the baby as soon as you walk in the door, let your cat take the lead. Cats are naturally cautious creatures, so allow your cat to naturally approach. Avoid forcing the cat to interact. You may go through more than one introduction until your cat gets used to the baby.
- Respect your cat's boundaries. Some cats are more social than others, and they may need more time to warm up to new people, including your new baby. Respect their boundaries and avoid overwhelming them with too much interaction too soon.
- Create positive associations. Associate positive experiences with the presence of the baby. For example, save a favorite interactive cat toy for times you need to focus on the baby, like during feedings or diaper changes. Allow your cat to tag along and get some dedicated time with a special toy while you tend to the baby. You can also give the cat treats or praise when the baby is around. This helps the cat form positive associations and reduces any negative feelings.
- Supervise interactions. Always closely supervise interactions between the cat and the baby. Never leave them alone together, especially in the early stages. This ensures the safety of both the cat and the baby.
- Gradually flex routines but maintain attention. Continue to provide your cat with attention, playtime, and regular routines even after the baby arrives. This helps prevent feelings of displacement and ensures the cat feels secure. As the baby’s schedule dictates the day, gradually introduce routine changes, if needed.
Of course, if you encounter difficulties or if your cat shows signs of aggression or extreme stress, consult with a veterinarian or a professional animal behaviorist for further guidance. Each cat has his own unique personality and adjustment timeline. Be patient and allow your cat to adjust at his own pace.
You can ease the transition of a new arrival by maintaining the same amount of interaction and attention with your cat as you always have. Finding the best interactive cat toys allows your cat to get the enrichment she needs while also giving her the security that she is loved and well cared for, just like the new baby.