The addition of a new baby into the home is a very exciting time but, from your cat’s perspective, it can also cause a lot of disruption in the form of new sounds and smells, changes in your routine, moving of furniture and the arrival of new objects (such as toys, prams and cots).
For some confident and inquisitive cats, this can be very interesting and intriguing, but for others it can cause them stress and anxiety as they may not feel as ‘in control’ of their environment anymore, with so much change happening at once.
- Your daily routine will probably change quite drastically when the baby arrives. If you can anticipate what is likely to change (e.g. how long for, when you play and interact with your cat, who will be feeding your cat, when she will get fed, when she will or won’t have access to certain parts of the home or outdoors etc.) and slowly introduce these changes in advance of baby arriving – this can greatly help your cat to adapt.
- You can gradually introduce your cat to the new objects associated with the baby, for example toys and prams, so that by the time the baby arrives these things are already familiar to her. Each time you introduce a new item into the home, place it in a ‘neutral’ area (that means not directly near your cat’s important resources such as food bowls or litter trays), leave some of your cat’s favourite treats on or around the new item, and then let your cat explore it in her own time.
- You can also play your cat recordings (which are commercially available) of the various sounds babies make (giggling, crying, gurgling, squealing) very quietly at first, gently increasing the volume over time so that your cat can slowly and gradually get used to these different noises before the baby arrives. Each time you play the recordings, you can also distract/reward your cat with a few treats.
- As your child starts crawling and then walking, it’s a great idea to provide your cat with lots of places where she can rest and perch that are out of the reach of children, for example, a big ‘cat tree’ or a cat bed placed on a shelf or on top of a cupboard. Using baby gates so that your cat can access an area that is quiet and ‘child free’ is also a great way to help her to cope sharing a home with a curious and active young child. As your child starts to show an interest and wants to interact with your cat, you can also teach them how to do this appropriately, such as how and where to touch the cat. By doing this you will help to prevent your child from being bitten or scratched, but also ensure that your cat is comfortable with being stroked.
As cats have evolved as independent solitary hunters responsible for their own survival, feeling safe is essential to cats so having lots of options and choices of places to hide (e.g. igloo type beds, cardboard boxes etc.) or get up high (e.g. on tops of wardrobes, cupboards, shelves etc.) to help them feel secure is one of the key things that you can do to help ensure your cat is happy.