Preparing Your Cat for a New Baby
By Elaine Waldorf Gewirtz
When a new baby enters the household, everyone celebrates—except your cat. To a feline, the sudden appearance of an additional family member brings confusion and change, which cats detest. Creatures of habit that depend on everything staying the same, cats are easily annoyed by upsets in their domain or routine.
Add in the strange-smelling, odd-looking, novel-sounding infant and her entourage of equipment, and your cat may have an even harder time accepting the precious little one, especially if he’s never grown up with children. It’s no wonder he may be feeling frightened and opt to stay out of sight!
Ideally, you’d like child and cat to become best buddies. To help this friendship blossom, you’ll have to ease your cat into his new lifestyle.
LIMIT PLAYTIME AND ATTENTION
Don’t lavish too much playtime and attention on your cat before the baby’s birth. Many parents unwittingly do this because they know their infant will take up all their time later. But your cat will become accustomed to the extra cuddling and won’t understand why it lessens when the child arrives.
SET A NEW ROUTINE
Since your priorities will eventually revolve around the baby’s needs rather than your cat’s, choose times when you can reliably feed your cat, clean his litter box, and provide one-on-one attention.
INTRODUCE INFANT OBJECTS
Let your cat see the baby’s crib, swing, changing table, diapers, and clothing. Allow him to wander around and fully investigate these infant items. At the same time, give him treats so that he associates the new things in his environment with rewards. Once he’s fully explored them, cover the crib and changing table so that he doesn’t think these are places where he can sleep.
DESENSITIZE YOUR CAT TO BABY NOISES
Wailing babies can upset adults, let alone cats. To help your cat take these woeful sounds in stride, record a friend’s baby in distress or purchase a CD of a crying baby. Give your cat a food treat or interact with him while playing a few minutes of the child’s sounds at a low volume. Gradually increase the volume and duration of exposure.
DESENSITIZE YOUR CAT TO TOYS
Musical infant toys and equipment generate no shortage of creaky sounds and tunes. To help your cat adjust to these, set them up in advance and periodically turn them on. This will allow him plenty of time to investigate and become accustomed to them.