Cats and Babies: Prepare Your Cat For Baby’s Arrival

cats and babies

One of my longtime cat sitting clients, Henri, has been going through an adjustment period since his human brother arrived last August. Bringing a new baby into the family is a joyous occasion, but without proper preparation it can be very stressful for your cat.  The book Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat–Not a Sour Puss by Pam Johnson-Bennett offers these suggestions for an easier transition for cats and babies:

Decorate Nursery Gradually 

Cats are creatures of habit and need time to adjust to changes.  If you plan to redecorate a room for the nursery, do one or two things at a time and give your cat a chance to investigate and get familiar with the new environment.  Conduct play sessions in the new area and offer treats.

Henri’s people gave him access to the baby’s room to get familiar with all of the new things: Toys, furniture, books to name a few.

Buy Crib Early and Train your Cat to Stay Out of It

One way to do this is to fill the crib with plastic bottles or shake cans (empty soda cans with a few pennies inside).  Make sure there are enough cans or bottles in the crib so the cat won’t be able to find a comfortable place to lay down.  If your cat does attempt to jump into the crib after your baby arrives, buy a sturdy crib tent to keep your cat out.  Make sure it’s strong enough to not become a hammock for your cat.

Familiarize your Cat with “Baby Sounds”

Baby noises are unfamiliar to cats and can be stressful.  To help familiarize your cat with baby sounds, try recording a friend’s baby, or check online for crying baby sound effects.  Play these tracks during play sessions with your cat to help get him comfortable.

If you have a friend with a baby, invite them to visit to help your cat become used to the movements and sounds babies make.  Conduct a play session while the friend is visiting and reward your cat for calm behavior around the baby.

Familiarize Cat with Baby Scents

Scent is very important to cats, so begin using products yourself that will be used on the baby such as baby lotion or powder.  Smelling the scent on you will help your cat become familiar with them when he smells them on the baby.

Henri’s people gave him the baby’s hat that was worn in the hospital.  This gave Henri a chance to become familiar with his brother’s scent before the baby came home.

Keep Cat’s Schedule As Normal As Possible 

If you have regularly scheduled play sessions, keep them intact.  This might involve some rearranging, maybe one member of the family conducts the play session while mother tends to the baby.  It’s important to allow your cat to be a part of things.  If it’s baby feeding time, allow your cat to sit beside you.

Cats are very good at picking up on our moods, so keeping calm and relaxed will help you, your baby and cat build a happy relationship that will last for many years to come.

Here is a picture of Henri checking out his brother’s room.  He’s still not sure what to make of the tiny human’s presence, but Henri will figure it out, I have no doubt!

Preparing Your Cat For Baby's Arrival

 

Update On Henri

Henri is still working to adjust to the changes brought about by his human brother’s arrival. The baby has grown and is becoming more active. Play sessions with him often take place on the floor, which is confusing to Henri.  The cat doesn’t understand why his people are on the floor playing with the small human, and not with him.

In order to get attention, Henri has started acting out, often grabbing his human’s hands, then biting and clawing them.  He’s also begun chasing his people around.

This has led to much frustration on the part of his humans, and time out for Henri.  Cats often have trouble adjusting to change, and arrival of a new baby is a major change.

Advice For Henri’s People

Henri is exhibiting behaviors intended to get the attention of his people.  Although it’s negative attention, in the end it is still attention, so he is actually being successful.  When cats exhibit behavior like this, it’s important to stop any interaction with them.  Any reaction at all, even punishment, is giving them attention and actually reinforcing the negative behavior.

Reward Henri when he’s exhibiting positive behavior.  When he’s biting and clawing, do not interact with him at all.then. Reward him with attention when he’s being quiet and good.

Henri is a very active cat, so I would recommend at least two regular play sessions with him each day.  Maybe one in the morning, and one in the evening, depending on your schedule.  Once you’ve determined the best times, be consistent with those times each day.  Cats thrive on consistency.  I would recommend one-on-one play sessions with him, so the focus is entirely on Henri during that time. Be sure to change the toys out on a regular basis.  Henri gets bored easily. Introduce new and challenging toys to keep him busy.

Challenge Henri’s mind.  Incorporate puzzle toys to challenge his mind and help hone his hunting skills.  Rather than simply putting his food in his dish, put it into a food dispensing toy.  That way, he’ll have to work to find his food, which will keep him busy much longer than munching food from his bowl.  Have a variety of puzzle/food dispensing toys and rotate them regularly to prevent boredom.

When it comes to cats and babies, it can be challenging keeping both happy and healthy.  It can be frustrating and challenging to maintain harmony, but once it’s there, it’s the best!

We’ll be checking in with Henri regularly and will provide updates on his progress.

 

Written by Karen

Karen

Karen is Publisher of Fully Feline. She also owns a pet care business in Overland Park, KS called Joy of Living.

21 Responses to "Cats and Babies: Prepare Your Cat For Baby’s Arrival"

  1. We did many of these things when we had our daughter. They definitely participated in the decorating and were able to sniff all the news things that came into the house. We didn’t do the baby sounds thing and wish I had – as the crying was definitely a big adjustment for our cats.

    Reply
    1. Yes, baby crying, actually any crying I’ve come to discover, upsets many pets, cats and dogs. When cats are used to being around grown humans, a baby coming into the mix must be very confusing. They don’t act like grown ups, sound like grown ups, or smell like grown ups. Wonder if they aren’t sure what the small creature is 🙂

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  2. Awww, send my congrats on the new “two legged” kitten and you’ve offered some good advice to the baby’s parents. Yep, it can be very confusing to the cats. Scheduling some “cat attention time” also can be helpful, even though the new baby can make this hectic. After all, the kitty was the FIRST baby. *s*

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  3. Excellent advice, and very important for new parents to be aware of. I’ve heard too many stories of parents getting rid of their dogs or cats because they didn’t have the time, or the animals were acting out and exhibiting problem behaviours. It’s important for them to understand a new baby is not only an adjustment for them, but for their pets as well. If they take that into consideration, it will make for a much smoother transition, and fewer animals ending up in shelters as a result. Thanks for sharing such helpful info about a very important issue.

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  4. I love the tips about baby sounds and smells! I never would have thought about that. It makes so much sense and I can see how it could really help make the baby sound and smell a lot less “weird” to your cat. Great tips.

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  5. I read information about preparing a dog for an arrival of a baby. It makes sense to accommodate cats as well. Never have had a cat, I don’t think about such things but it’s great that you put this information out there for cat parents.

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  6. Having a baby is a life changing event for all involved. I hope eventually Henri will feel more settled in his new situation at home and return to exhibiting more positive behavior. It’s not easy.

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  7. Don’t get be started on people and throwing cats out when a baby arrives – the air would be blue and my comments far from civil!!!!!

    People need to make the effort, a baby is coming and they are not the only ones who will be profoundly affected. Cats are too. PLEASE keep us up to date on Henri, having seen what happens I find myself concerned for him.

    Reply
    1. Henri’s people care very much about him. They did preparation ahead of the baby’s arrival so he would have an idea what to expect. He was their “child” for a couple of years, so he’s used to having all the attention. He will get there, just having some growing pains. I’ve taken care of “Hank” (my nickname for him) since he was a kitten, will be checking in with them periodically on progress.

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  8. Babies bring big changes to any household. I can see how it would stress a cat, these are great tips to help prevent stress. I hope that Henri starts feeling more secure soon!

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  9. I imagine it must be quite a change for a cat to add a human baby to the family. You’ve given some great tips here to make it easier though! Poor Henri. I hope his family follows your advice and that he starts to adjust better. We look forward to a positive next report!

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  10. These are really good tips to prepare for a baby coming home and excellent advice you’ve given to your client for Henri. If they don’t nip this in the bud now it could become dangerous for the baby and for Henri – this is one way pets get rehomed. I hope it works out for Henri! Sharing this.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    Reply
  11. These are really helpful points for parents to consider when trying to be sure the transition for both the cat(s) and humans goes as smoothly as possible. Thanks for sharing this useful resource. I’m sure a lot of these points are also relevant for dog owners and is important for them to consider too.

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  12. A new baby is a major life change for anyone! Your suggestion about making gradual changes (when possible) is a really great one. Kitties like to get used to new things one step at a time. I’m glad that Henri is doing okay with his new human brother. Even young humans get confused about why new siblings get all of the attention. I’m sure that Henri will find his peace with it. 🙂

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  13. I so hope Henri can adjust to the new addition in the house. I always hate reading when new parents get rid of the cat because of their fear of the cat hurting the baby. Thank you for your advice. It’s worth sharing.

    Reply

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