Cats may have a reputation for being aloof, but many kitty parents would disagree—the little sofa lions are family and if that family expands to include a tiny human, careful preparation can give parents a paw up when it comes time to introduce a cat to a new baby.
You’ve done all the preparation for getting your cat ready for the new baby, but actually introducing your cat to your baby needs to be dealt with carefully.
1. SCENT TRANSFER
Prior to the baby’s arrival in the home, bring home a blanket or item of clothing worn by the baby. These will have individual smells that will prepare the cat for the family newcomer. It can also be helpful to rub the items against yourself so that the cat smells other colony members in combination with the baby odors. Placing these items near areas the cat frequents creates positive associations. Remember that dirty diapers are very fragrant and may be too stressful for your cat and can lead to stress spraying. Be sure they are disposed of in airtight plastic containers and removed from the house quickly.
2. CATS FIRST OBSERVATION
When the baby comes home, sit somewhere near one of the cat’s perches so that she can view the infant from a safe one, Observing the sounds, smells, and sights of the family newcomer. Some cats are naturally curious and will recognize the smell of the baby, drawing near. To ensure the experience is positive, have some cooked chicken or special treat nearby so that the cat can be rewarded for good behavior when appropriate.
If the cat decides to just sit back and observe for a while, ignore her. Allow her time to approach on her own terms. Forcing the issue will create negative memories that will surely be associated with the presence of the baby.
3. ALLOW CAT TO APPROACH AT HER OWN PACE
Should your cat be very interested in the baby and draw close, do not get nervous. Relax and encourage the cat with a soft voice. Some cats need to sniff the newcomer up close. Just be very observant of her body language, and always make certain the area is quiet and calm. It is important that your cat has an easy escape from the area so that she does not feel cornered or otherwise threatened.
If the cat is highly attached to one of the parents, then the first meeting face-to-face with the baby should be with someone other than her most “treasured human”. This allows for her favorite person to make a fuss over her upon arrival home and continue to offer her rewards for good behavior when near the baby.
4. USE FELINE RELAXATION HORMONES
Should the cat appear uncomfortable around the baby, try spraying feline relaxation hormone on the baby’s clothes and bedding. A few diffusers around the house may also prove helpful.
5. NEVER LEAVE CAT ALONE WITH BABY
A cat should never be left alone with a baby, toddler, or any youngster. When together, they should be supervised to ensure nobody gets injured. A cat who is accidentally poked, kicked, hit, or otherwise tormented by a child will become skittish and stressed.
Babies aren’t very mobile and, therefore, not normally a source of confrontation. This does not occur until the baby becomes a toddler or precocious youngster who chases or tries to pick the cat up. This is a huge source of stress for a cat and it is the cat who is often the one punished for their natural reactions to the stressor.
A cat who becomes stressed by the presence of a new baby may tend to spray on the baby’s clothing, toys, or bed. Essentially, it’s a sign of agitation and can mean that the cat wishes to cover the newcomer’s scent with her own—territorial behavior.
There are some cats who will accept any treatment without any reaction or, if annoyed, will simply walk away. Many, however, will feel fearful and lash out with their weapons—claws and teeth — which could cause injury to a child. Sadly, many of these cats are re-homed or relinquished to a shelter. A traumatic event for all involved.
In order to keep your Pet out of your baby’s room, it might help to place a barrier in the room when unsupervised, which enables the cat to know the area is out of bounds for them.
Introducing a new member to your pride does not have to be a stressful experience. By providing a slow and steady introduction, the result can be enriching for both your cat and your child.