All cats are different when it comes to handling - some are happy to be touched all over, whereas others may only enjoy being stroked on their head or shoulders. It’s common for most cats to be sensitive around their stomach area and tail. If your cat doesn’t like being touched in certain areas, you will have to be mindful of this when your baby becomes more mobile, as babies can “grab” in their enthusiasm to want to touch and stroke, which can easily upset your cat.
Avoid playing games that involve your hands, however tempting! Even if your cat is gentle when playing, it’s always best to use toys instead, as you don’t want your cat to favour fingers or hands, especially when your baby arrives.
To prepare your cat for the sounds that babies make, play recordings of a baby crying, gurgling and screaming for short periods during the day. Initially the sound should be barely audible, increasing the volume gradually as your cat grows accustomed to the noises.
New smells and objects
A cat’s primary sense is smell, so new products and objects bought into the house can be a particularly challenging. Get your cat used to the smell of baby powder, soaps, shampoos and baby milk by using them in the months leading up to your baby’s arrival. Put some of the products on your own skin (eg powder, baby lotion) – this way the new smells can mingle with a familiar “safe” smell.
To make the new objects smell more familiar (and therefore less threatening) wipe a soft cloth over your cat’s head and then using the same area of the cloth, wipe the new baby items.
When your baby begins to toddle and explore, cat food may prove an irresistible attraction so accustom your cat to eating in an area, preferably off the ground, where your child won’t be able to reach.
A Quiet Place
You are likely to have lots of visitors when your new baby arrives. Some sociable cats may enjoy the extra attention but others may become overwhelmed. Cats should always have a quiet, safe place to go to whenever they need to rest or retreat from the visitors or the baby.
Make sure that your cat is in good physical health. Your cat should also be free from fleas and worms. Any suspicions about illness or developing ailments should be checked out by a qualified vet. Any pain or irritation that a cat is feeling will lower their tolerance to the changes that are about to happen, which may lead to spraying or aggression.
How will your pet react?
If this is the first time your pet will be living with a new baby, ask yourself the following questions.
If you are happy with your cat’s behaviour, then you can proceed with the general advice.
After the baby is born
The baby should be introduced in a quiet room where the cat has few associations – not a place where the cat usually sleeps or eats. Hold the baby in your arms and allow your cat to sniff them. Reward your cat’s calm behaviour with gentle praise and tasty titbits. The cat will appear interested for a few seconds and will then lose interest.
Due to hygiene concerns, people who do not have pets of their own may try and encourage you to rehome your cat. It’s essential that your cat is treated for worms and fleas regularly.
Never leave your cat unsupervised with a baby.