Tips for Introducing Babies and Cats
Having a baby is an exciting time but it’s also one of huge disruption for the entire household. Whether you have an existing cat or are thinking about bringing a new one into the mix, there’s a lot to think about and consider.
For one, cats like familiarity and predictability in their routine and in their environment. They bond to their home often as much as they do to their people, and they do not like change - and a baby, and everything that comes with it, is very definitely a big change!
We’ve created this article to give you all of our advice on babies and cats to help you navigate life with your new arrival, keep reading to find out more…
Planning for introducing cats to babies
If you’re expecting your first child, remember this may be a particularly difficult adjustment for your cat as they’ve not had to share you and your attention with anyone else before. Everything will be as new for them as it is for you.
If you have an existing cat in your household, the good news is that you have plenty of time from discovering you are pregnant to bringing your baby home, so you can plan and gradually prepare your cat to accept the new arrival.
It helps if you take some time to understand why this is such an upheaval for cats, as when you consider things from their point of view you can help to make them feel happy and secure. Here are a few things to consider:
- While we think that it is dogs that have the best sense of smell, cats also have excellent noses and use scent to help them feel safe and secure - often far more than most owners consider. They will rub their faces on items around the house - and on us - leaving their scent on them so they know what things are ‘theirs’ or are known to them, so therefore are ‘safe’. With a baby comes a whole host of new things - such as decorating the baby’s room, new furniture, the cot, a pram, toys… All of these are unknown and to your cat and don’t smell right!
- Then of course there is the baby itself… To a cat a baby doesn’t smell like any human they know! They smell of milk, nappies, baby wipes and a whole host of other things that your cat doesn’t recognise.
- As well as their smell being different, babies make some very strange noises - all of which can be worrying for your cat.
- It’s not only their environmental security that is affected by a new baby - it’s also their attachment to you. Suddenly overnight your routine has changed and you are no longer as available for ‘cat time’ as you were, as you are focused on the new demands of parenthood.
Tips for introducing cats to a new baby
The secret to helping your cat accept their new role as a feline aunt or uncle is preparation and making as much as possible familiar for your cat in small, gradual steps.
- Start any decoration of your baby’s bedroom as early as possible so changes to the house happen gradually
- Buy furniture and equipment one at a time so your cat can become familiar with them in their own time
- Try and make these new things ‘smell right’ by gently rubbing a soft towel or a cloth along the sides of your cat’s face while they are relaxing with you then rubbing it around the furniture and baby equipment
- Play very quiet baby sound effects so your cat gets used to hearing the noises that come with a baby
- Make sure your cats feeding bowls and litter tray are somewhere quiet but easily accessible - if this means moving them, do that long before the baby comes home
- As you are not going to be as available to your cat for a few months, think about ways to add physical and mental stimulation into their life that doesn’t involve you. This could include giving them different heights or textures (a climbing frame or cat activity tree) so they can indulge in their natural climbing behaviours as well as giving them a new vantage point to watch the baby but stay safely out of the way. Try providing them with scratching posts, and places to access window sills so they can watch outside. All these things add interest to your cat’s life but they also help build your cat’s confidence
- Start to consider basic common-sense hygiene precautions and get into the habit straight away - such as washing your hands after feeding your cat or cleaning litter trays, making sure flea and worm treatments are up to date in advance of your baby’s arrival, and finding ways to keep the baby’s room as a no-go area for your cat
- While you are going to be occupied with your new baby, remember that your cat still needs your love and your attention
This preparation will ensure that there aren’t sudden and stressful changes to your cat’s routine - and when the baby comes home, they are far more likely to accept them without any problems.
Planning to introduce a new kitten or cat to a baby
There is no reason why you shouldn’t add a cat to your household if you have a baby - except that both take up a lot of time! The very first thing to ask yourself is if this really is the best time to take on either a kitten or an adult rescue cat, both of which will need a lot of your attention - especially in the first few months. Most new parents have enough to do with their human arrival to even contemplate a new feline one too!
Assuming however, that your baby is a little older and having weighed up all the pros and cons, you find you’ve got time for a cat, the first decision is whether you are going to take on a kitten or an adult. There are advantages - and drawbacks - to both.
What’s best, a kitten or an adult cat?
First of all, a kitten that is brought up around young children will probably grow to be more tolerant of them and enjoy their company - but kittens are a lot of work and are a big commitment. An adult cat may be less work but also may be less accepting of a young, sometimes noisy family - and some rehoming centres will not place a cat in households with young children, viewing it as too stressful. Others will view each family and each cat as individuals and match you accordingly, and so you may be able to find a rescue cat who has come from a busy home and who will fit perfectly into your life.
Tips for introducing new cats and babies
Once you have found your new feline companion, do some preparation - and some shopping - before they come home.
- Cats like lots of different places to sleep in - so make sure they have plenty of options both close to the family but also in more peaceful areas when they need some quiet time
- The cat will need ‘escape route’ so if family life is getting too noisy or overwhelming, they can take themselves off somewhere quiet. Stair gates in doorways are perfect for this - as the cat can get through them but your baby and small children can’t!
- Decide which rooms in the house are going to be out of bounds - make sure those doors are ‘cat proof’
- Decide where your cat will be fed - away from noise and disruption and somewhere your child doesn’t (or won’t) have access
- Litter trays should be set up somewhere quiet, with easy access for your cat, away from food bowls - and again, somewhere your children will not have access (again, stair gates can be invaluable here)
- Remember that cats - and kittens especially - can climb or crawl through the tiniest of gaps. Make sure everyone knows the importance of closing doors and windows - no matter how busy they are with the baby or how distracted by family life
- Provide things for the cat to climb on and scratch on - both for stimulation and to be able to observe what is going on from a safe height (make sure these are attached to the wall so neither your cat or your child can pull them down)
- Also find a good vet - as you will need to ensure your cat is vaccinated, and their flea and worm treatment is kept fully up to date
Key considerations for cats and babies
While children are young, all interactions between the cat and your child need to be supervised closely. Most cats will either be mildly curious about babies, or just avoid them - but babies and toddlers can grab and cats can scratch - you want to avoid both.
Once your baby is old enough to begin to be more interested in the cat, you can teach them from the very beginning to be gentle and quiet around your cat - and ensure they grow up to be the best of friends.
That’s our guide to introducing new and existing cats and babies! Want to find out how to introduce a dog to a baby? Read our guide for more useful information.