Are you worried about your cat being jealous of your baby and you want to avoid aggressive reactions? The arrival of a baby at the family is a great joy, but when we live with some animal we can also add to that a concern, especially thinking of how our pet will accept the new family member. As we know, cats are very stressful animals, and any changes in the environment can generate very high levels of stress.
Before the arrival of a baby at home when where we live with a feline, it is fundamental to make some preparations leading up to the encounter, from the beginning as much as possible. We give you some helpful hints and tips in these situations.
Preparing cat for a baby
Progressive changes of routines. With the arrival of the baby, our routines will change because we will have to devote more time to the new family member. Therefore, it is desirable that, during the months of pregnancy, we progressively modify our routines, especially those involving our cat: meal schedules, timetables and attention time and play with our feline,… If changes are made with time and little by little, when the baby arrives and start the new routine, our cat will already be accustomed to it so that the change will be much less abrupt to him.
Progressive changes at home. Another aspect that will change in our lives and to our cat will be the distribution of things at home. Everything you need for the baby (cot, buggy, bath,…) will be new to the cat and take place at home, so we will have to make space redistributions. The sooner we do it, the best for the cat for two reasons:
He will get used to the new objects, so that, when the baby arrives, he will know and had time to explore and recognize them.
It is very important that the objects of the cat to be moved in a progressive way (feeding and watering troughs, sandpit, scrapers, rest areas). If the objects of the baby will occupy a site where now is the belongings of the cat, the changes we make must be progressive to avoid stress.
Create or maintain safe zones for the feline. Safe zones are places where the cat can get "isolated" when he wants to be quiet and that no one bothers him. They are usually high ground or hidden areas. Often, the cat chooses these places, although we can provide safe areas using cardboard boxes, sports bags, placing high shelves,… It is essential to maintain these safe places for cats and, if they predictably should disappear, we should create new zones little by little so he can get used to them and in a positive way.
Use of the feline facial pheromone. The facial marking is what the cat does by rubbing their chins on objects, people or other pets. It is a form of communication in which the cat leaves a message for himself: “this object, person or pet is known and safe for me, so I can relax”. Nowadays, a synthetic analog of these pheromones can be found at the market and are very useful in situations of changes in the environment of the cat. Placing one or two of these pheromones diffusers before the arrival of the baby might be able to help our cat to better manage this moment.
Cutting of nails and veterinary checkup. It is important to trim the cat's nails before the arrival of the baby. Although it is out of curiosity, he might want to touch him and that could make some scratches without the intent to harm. In addition, some cats don't get along with the cutting of nails, so it is preferable to do so before the baby arrives and not when he/she is already present, in order to avoid that the cat associates the bad experience with the baby.
Do cats recognize babies or have aggressive reactions?
It will also be important that the vaccines and deworming be up-to-date, for hygienic security.
Habituation to noises and cries of the baby. Although it is not always effective because some animals do not extrapolate to reality, it may be useful to use CDs or recordings with cries of babies during the previous months. Start putting them at a low volume and, according to the reaction of the cat, increase them little by little. Make sure to play with the animal while the sound recordings play, petting him or give feeding with prizes.
Presentation of the clothes and smells of the baby. The world of smells is extremely important in cats. When the baby has already been born, but he is still in the hospital, we must take advantage of those days to take clothes, diapers, towels used by the baby home; this will allow the cat to get used to the smell of the new member of the family. But careful, never force your cat to smell those objects. Leave them home in a visible area and wait for him to come close to smell them and explore them. You can give him rewards such as food or some prizes near the objects of the baby.
Guidelines when the baby is at home
After many months waiting and making the necessary preparations, there comes a key time: the arrival of the baby at home. Generally, the cats that have had contact with babies and children tend to show fewer problems of acceptance. With those cats that have not been socialized or shown certain problems such as fear or aggressiveness, we must be especially careful to avoid problems.
If the cat is relaxed, let him approach and recognize the baby. Let him smell and explore him, without forcing the cat or making sudden movements while you are interacting with him. You can take advantage of these interactions by rewarding the cat with caresses and some sweets that he likes so much.
One of the moments in which to be more alert is when the baby cries, as the shouts can alert or scare the cat. Try to always keep calm and, if the cats decide to go to its safe area, don't bother him.
Before the slightest sign of discomfort or aggressiveness from the cat (snorting, grunting, goosebumps,…), separate the cat from the baby and get in touch with a specialist in behavioral medicine.
As you can see, there are many guidelines which may be carried out before a new member arrives of the family to get the acceptance on the part of our cats to be complete and peaceful. There are many months during pregnancy that we can use to work at that. If, after the baby gets home, you notice some disturbing signs and, above all, fear or some aggressive behavior in your cat, don't doubt for any second and go seek aid with an expert with behavior therapy so he can help you with your problem.
Borja Ros Villanueva, veterinary ethologist at Adetcan.
Adetcan is a project formed by two veterinary ethologists and canine educators that provide counseling services, prevention, diagnosis and treatment for problems related to the behavior of dogs and cats. The service is at home. We are in Santiago de Compostela, but we work in all Galicia.