expecting mother / family / lifestyle / parenting / pets

When Cat People Become Parents

catlady2Before having Wesley, I spent a lot of time worrying about how my cat and the baby would get along. My cat, Princess Leia was my furbaby for years before I became a mother and I didn’t relish the idea of having to get rid of her if she started peeing on his stuff or growling at him. I certainly was scared of him pulling her fur and getting scratched or bitten. Now he’ll be a year old in two weeks and they get a long quite well. Calling them bestfriends might be going a little far but I do trust Leia with him. There’s a lot of information out there about how to introduce your dog and your baby but the information about introducing your cat and baby is rather lacking. What you do find is often not that helpful or unrealistic. For example I read several articles and blog posts that swear by sending your significant other home from the hospital with a receiving blanket that smells like the baby for your cat to smell a couple of days before coming home with the baby. Well when the baby was born I knew Leia was being checked in on by a close friend and honestly my last priority during that time was having my husband drive an hour back to our apartment to make sure that the cat got a sneak preview of the baby’s scent. I was much more concerned with sleep, snuggling my baby, and trying to get out of the hospital. (I HATE hospitals.) However we did and continue to take certain measures to make sure that they get along so I’m going to go over some of those in case they’re helpful for others.catlady4

The Pregnancy Stage:

  • Set up the nursery and baby furniture as early as possible. Cats are notoriously slow at accepting big changes so it’s much better to make the change happen in slow steps. For a cat who is quite sure that they own the house, evening moving around furniture can annoy them. So to step up furniture and bring a baby home right away could be a lot for them to handle.
  • Let your cat explore the baby gear you step up, I don’t recommend keeping them locked out of the nursery because that’s just going to stress them out and make it more likely the will pee on stuff in there that one time you forget to close the door. However, if you notice they are starting to sleep on a particular baby item too regularly, I would definitely start deterring them from doing that. You want them to be comfortable with the furniture but not to think it’s “theirs” otherwise they will see the baby as a furniture thief.
  • Spend a lot of extra time with your cat(s) before the baby comes because for the first month of your baby being born the cat(s) will be getting the short end of the attention stick.

catlady5The Newborn Stage:

  • When you first bring the baby home make sure that you find your cat(s) and introduce them to the baby promptly. Don’t let the cat discover the baby on their own. Not only is it a picture worthy moment, but it will give you a good idea of your cat’s feelings towards the baby. It’s normal for the cat to look confused/scared and sniff the baby a lot. However, if the cat is growling or twitching their tail angrily those are signs that you need to keep an extra close eye on their interactions for a while.
  • For first month do not leave them alone in the same room together EVER.
  • One thing that I did regularly to encourage them cat and the baby to be comfortable with each other is to snuggle them both at the same time. Newborns tend to be heavy sleepers so once you’ve nursed (or bottle fed) them to sleep, invite your cat to snuggle on your lap or the chair of your arm, on the bed, etc. You’ll find that cats love sleeping babies.
  • If you are awake and watching the baby then feel free to let your cat cuddle up near the baby for a nap. But for the first 6 months I don’t recommend letting your cat and baby sleep together at night when you’re not watching them. Your cat is still adjusting to the baby and there are SIDS concerns as well.

catlady1The Crawler/Early Walker Stage:

  • As soon as the baby starts showing interest in your cat, be sure to model nice petting behavior. Even before your baby is capable of petting the cat they will be watching how you interact with your cat so it’s super important to emphasize how to be nice and gentle with the kitty. Get your babies attention and show them how to pet the kitty nicely.
  • Once crawling starts the cat will probably become an object of much fascination in your babies world. If you’ve gotten lax on leaving them alone together at this point that’s understandable but when the baby first starts crawling you should keep and extra close eye on them again while you watch how your cat reacts to the baby grabbing at them.
  • Babies even at 6 months old understand a lot more than you think they do. So let your baby touch the cat when you are safely observing. You can even help the baby pet the cat just to model the correct way of doing it. If you see them getting exciting and smacking or pulling fur, immediately put a stop to it but saying now to the baby and pulling them away from the cat. Carefully observe your cats behavior if the run away or meow those are good behaviors and you should reward them with affection. Remember that it’s not cute for the baby to get overly excited and get rough with the cat. Even the best pet can react out of instinct if they are hurt.catladyOf course it’s important to make sure your cat’s first instinct is to run not attack but it’s always your responsibility to make it clear right away to your baby that we don’t hit kitties or pull their fur.
  • By 9 or 10 months your baby can definitely understand when you are telling them no and what you are telling them no about. So it’s extra important to let them pet the cat in observed situations so that you can regularly correct rough behavior.
  • Make sure that once they start crawling you have the cat food, cat water, and litter box out of baby’s reach. I learned the hard way that Wesley will go great lengths to eat cat food and splash cat water.

The Toddler Stage:

  • I will write an update post once Wesley is older! For now i’d love to hear from my readers about how they handle interactions between their cat(s) and their toddler. Do you think extra effort when they were a baby paid off?

In conclusion; Wesley and Princess Leia are doing really well together. He loves chasing her around and she loves when he is sleeping. I’ve never been scared that she would hurt him. He’s pulled a little bit of fur out a couple of times when he was just learning to crawl but since then he is quickly understanding he has to be nice if he wants her to not run away. They even share toys; Wesley LOVES jingly cat toys and Leia loves all of the balls from the ball pit and baby socks are a great joy to her as well. They even work together to get ornaments off the Christmas tree.

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