Before the Baby is Born
The best time to start preparing your cats for the arrival of a human infant is before the baby is born. By now, the cats are used to the bump that exists where your lap used to be, and are acquainted with the thumps, wiggles, and almost imperceptible sounds that bump produces. You’ve probably noticed that your cats’ attitude towards you has changed ever so slightly, as if they somehow sense the baby. My own cats became more calm and affectionate towards me when I was pregnant. Now you have to begin to prepare them for the bump that is a part of “mom” to turn into an infant separate and apart from “mom”. Here are some methods that I felt helped in the transition:
- If you have friends with infants, you can have them bring baby over periodically so that the cats can begin to acquaint themselves with a human closer to the own size.
- If you can obtain a tape recording of a newborn baby crying, you can play it occasionally to allow the cats to get used to this sound being a part of their environment.
- Set up the baby’s room in advance, and give the cats freedom to explore the variety of new furniture and items without interference.
- Always (and this is vital for peace to remain in your household) give the empty boxes that the baby stuff came in to the cats. It has nothing to do with preparing them for the baby, but they do love those empty boxes.
The New Addition is Born
Now that you’ve had your baby, and (unless you’ve had a home birth) you’re in the hospital, there are additional things you can do to prepare you cats for the new sights, smells, and sounds that an infant will add to their household.
- Send blankets and clothing that the infant has been wearing home to the cats while you’re in the hospital, and allow the cats the freedom to sniff and investigate the new smell.
- Rub the blankets gently on the cat, possibly transferring some of the infant’s scent to the cats themselves.
- Make a tape of your infant’s sounds and play it for the cats before you bring the baby home.
- Begin closing the door to the baby’s room, so the cats can get used to the idea that this is no longer space in which they are allowed free access.
Bringing Baby Home
You’ve most likely been away for several days by this time, and your cats are missing you. When you bring the baby home, try to allow someone else to carry the baby into the house, and set aside several minutes upon returning home to greet your cats, reassure them, and shower them with a bit of attention before introducing them to the baby. If you have several other people coming in to the house with you that aren’t normally a part of the household, you may want to have the cats restricted to a safe place away from all the excitement until those people have left the home and it returns to it’s normal calm, quiet state to greet your cats. Don’t force them to deal with the new arrival for the first time with additional swarm of family, friends, and well-wishers.
Your next step will be to allow the cats to investigate the new comer. Typically, there will be one of three reactions from your cats:
“So, what’s the big deal? I’m going to take a nap, wake me when it can open a food can.”
“Wow, mom, this thing smells neat! Can I groom it? Can I sit next to it? Can I have it for my very own?”
“What the heck is THAT?! I’m outta here, and I’ll be under the bed if you need me, but I’m not getting close to that funny smelling thing!”
You may choose to hold the baby, or to place the baby on a blanket next to you, but allow the cats to sniff, explore, groom, and nuzzle the baby if they choose to do so. As long as you are right there to intervene, the baby and the cats are in no danger. My cats loved to snuggle in my lap, back to back with the baby while the baby was nursing, and a purring cat pressed up against baby’s back in your lap if baby is a bit colicky works wonders for getting baby back to sleep. If you’re nursing, the cats can work wonders for your relaxation too. Imagine if you will, sitting in a quiet room, baby is nursing at your breast, and a cat in your lap snuggle up to baby, or on the back of the chair purring softly, winking it’s eyes at you gently. I had a cat in my lap snuggled up with baby, one on the arm of the chair, and two perched on the back of the chair, all purring and winking - and I can’t think of a time in my life that contained as little stress and as much contentment as those.
If your cat simply isn’t interested in the new addition, or seems fearful, just let them be. They’ll come around in their own time, and respect for their feelings and boundaries is the best thing you can do for them. Make baby available for them to investigate when they’re ready, but don’t thrust the baby on them or force them to interact with the baby if they’re not ready. If you take your cue from the cat, it will eventually all come together.
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