How To Introduce Your Cat To A Baby
Future BFFs 👶
While cats can be super friendly, they’re also known for being a little wary around new people — if you have a cat, you’ve probably noticed your cat is a little less social when you have friends around than he is when it’s just the two of you.
Which might make you a bit worried if you’re about to add a new baby to your house. After all, that will mean that your cat will have to get used to having a new person around all the time — not just for an occasional movie night.
To help you out with the transition, The Dodo spoke to Dr. Stephanie Austin, a veterinarian at Bond Vet, to find out everything you need to know about safely introducing your cat to a new baby.
How to prepare your cat for a new baby
A new baby can bring change to all areas of your life, and cats will notice those changes! So you’ll want to prepare your cat well before the baby arrives so your cat has time to adjust to at least some of it.
“Cats are creatures of habit, and therefore, although some cats will be just fine with a baby, any major, sudden change in the home has the potential to cause stress,” Dr. Austin told The Dodo.
So follow these steps to make sure your cat doesn’t get too stressed out when the baby comes home.
Get him used to all the new stuff
Start adding baby things to the house months before the baby actually arrives.
“One way to help prevent [your cat from getting stressed out] is by making changes gradually before the baby comes,” Dr. Austin said. “For example, set up the crib or other baby supplies well ahead of time (although don’t let your cat sleep on them or claim them for him/herself).”
Bring the crib, stroller and any toys into the house as well so your cat can scope them out.
Start bringing baby soaps and shampoos into the house, too, so your cat can get used to those new smells. You can even use them yourself to give your cat positive associations with the scents.
Give your cat a place of his own
When the baby arrives, you’ll have an extra person in the house, and you might have lots of visitors too. To make sure your cat doesn’t get overwhelmed, give him a separate space to have some alone time.
“Set up a space for your cat to call their own, such as a room with a cat tower and all their food, litter box and toys,” Dr. Austin said. “That way, your cat would be less likely to feel like their space is being taken away once the baby does arrive.”
If you plan to change up where your cat sleeps or eats when the baby arrives, do that in advance so your cat doesn’t feel like the baby is taking over (and so he doesn’t associate the baby with any changes he doesn’t like).
Be careful with your cat
Be super careful about hygiene with your cat before the baby comes to avoid illness.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a common parasite that can spread between cats and humans. It can also spread between a human mom and her unborn baby and cause serious health issues during pregnancy, so you need to be extra careful with your cat before the baby is born.
To prevent this, keep your cat indoors (so he doesn’t eat any small rodents or birds, which is how cats usually get it), and try to find someone else to clean his litter box since cats can pass the disease to humans through their feces.
If you have to be the one to clean the litter box, wear gloves during cleaning and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Be careful when playing with your cat too! You should try to avoid playing “stalking” games with your hands before the baby comes — even if your cat is really gentle, you don’t want him to paw at the baby.
Try to keep your cat’s routine the same
Things can be unpredictable at times with a baby, but try to keep to the same schedule for your cat for the big things during the day (like mealtimes).
“While a schedule with a newborn can be busy and hard to control, try to keep major daily highlights at about the same time if you can,” Dr. Austin said. “For example, feed your cat and clean their litter box at approximately the same times of day you used to.”
Keeping some form of schedule will help to ease the transition for your cat.
If you think that the feeding duties will change from one cat parent to another, start to shift that before the baby arrives, so your cat can adjust to that change as well.
And remember that even though babies need lots of attention, your cat still needs attention too!
“Try to give your cat some undivided attention each day so they don’t feel left out,” Dr. Austin said.
Introducing your cat to your baby
When you come home with your new baby, first say hello to your cat alone in a quiet room to give him some one-on-one time before introducing him to the newest family member.
Cats’ main sense is their sense of smell, so let your cat sniff a blanket or piece of clothing the baby has used as a next step so he can get familiar with the smell.
When it comes time to actually introduce your cat to your baby, do it slowly.
“It’s always best to use caution and make an introduction under supervision, and as gradually as possible,” Dr. Austin said. “Reward your cat with praise, treats or attention when they behave well around the baby. If your cat is nervous, don’t force an interaction.”
Hold the baby and let your cat sniff her. If your cat shows no interest, seems nervous or tries to run away, let him leave, and try again another time. Don’t try to force your cat, or he might get stressed out or associate the baby with negative interactions.
If the introductions go well, give him some treats and praise so he knows he’s doing a good job and learns that the baby is nothing to be afraid of.
After that initial introduction, don’t let your cat feel left out!
“Figure out ways for your cat to get playtime or attention while you are holding the baby — for example, let your cat sit next to you and baby on the couch, or set up toys your cat can safely play with by themselves, such as mechanical toys that move on their own,” Dr. Austin said.
(This cat toy earned The Dodo’s Paw of Approval! It’s an activity play mat that will keep your cat entertained for hours by himself. You can get it from Amazon for $43.50.)
If you take these steps to introduce your cat to your new baby, they’ll soon be fast friends — or at least your cat will peacefully coexist with her.
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