Babies change everything and if you already own a cat, you will want to give them time to get used to the idea. It’s a good idea to start the preparation before your baby arrives to give your cat time to adjust.
Why can cats become stressed by a new baby?
- Lots of change such as new furniture and baby paraphernalia will smell different to your cats. Not only this but loud toys with flashing lights can be scary to your cat.
- Babies are unpredictable and behave differently to adults and children. Babies can grab and pull new objects, which may include the cat!
- Babies smell different from adults (usually of milk and dirty nappies).
- Babies take up a large amount of their parents time which may mean the cat gets less attention than they are used to.
Bring in new items sooner rather than later
Babies come with lots of stuff! Cots, prams, playmats, toys – all of which take up a lot of space and are a big change to your cat. Bring in one new item at a time – don’t overwhelm your cat with too much at once and allow your cat to sniff and examine the new objects. Start preparing early as this will give your cat a chance to adjust slowly before the baby arrives.
We started with a Moses basket and allowed the cats to sniff it and check it out. We don’t want the cats to get into the habit of using the Moses basket to sleep in, so should they get in, we lift them out. Never use fear to punish a cat as it will make them anxious, just keep removing them out the cot. You could put a blanket or net over the pram or cot when it’s not being used to deter your cat from napping in it.
Do some scent swapping
Cats rub their faces and chins on things around the house to mark them with their scent. By gently rubbing a sock around your cats face and then rub the sock on the new furniture at cat height, it can help your cat to relax as everything will have their familiar scent on.
Get your cat used to a new routine
A new baby will likely change your routine a lot and because of that, the cat’s primary caretaker may have to change. I usually do the litter boxes and feed the cats, but my husband had to take over litter box duties whilst I was pregnant. As we are expecting a few sleepless nights when the baby is here, we have started to feed the cats later in the morning to give them time to adjust and reduce stress.
Cats do not like change, so any adaptations should be made gradually and so my husband has also taken over the task of feeding them as I don’t know how much I will be able to do after the baby is born. If you are going to restrict access to certain areas now (such as the baby’s room) start reducing access now, not when your little one arrives. Likewise, if you are happy to let the cat in the baby’s room in the day but not at night, get them used to a new routine.
Offer your cat places to hide
Give your cat lots of ‘safe’ places to go to once the baby arrives. This is anywhere the cat can retreat to that allows them to hide or get out the way. Good options are;
- Cat towers give your cat the vertical space to get away and many have cubby holes for them to hide in.
- Floor to ceiling cat trees allow your cat to go up as high as the ceiling.
- Cat tunnels can offer a cosy place to hide.
- Cat condos that hang on the back of doors
- Window perches
- Closed in beds
- Radiator beds
- Radiator tunnels
- Cat shelves
Get them used to baby noises
If your cat has never lived with a baby before, the sounds they make may unsettle them. Begin to play them baby noises (there are lots on YouTube) and start with the volume low. Put it on throughout the day, even when your cat is eating to gradually get them used to it. Over time, increase the volume of the recordings and if your cat shows any sign of anxiety or fear, turn the volume down again, keep it at that level for a few days and then increase it again.
Use pheromone diffusers
Plugin pheromone diffusers like Feliway release synthetic pheromones similar to the one a female cat releases when she is feeding her kittens and this can help to calm them. Other options are Pet Remedy which comes in sprays, plug-in diffusers and atomisers and is a natural product, working by mimicking the natural calming agent present in animals.
Both products can be trial and error and some products work better on some individuals than others. Although Feliway is for cats only, Pet Remedy can be used for all species and so might be the better option if you live in a multi-pet household.
Once the baby comes home…
If possible, bring something of the baby’s home from the hospital before they come home, such as a baby grow or blanket to allow your cat to become familiar with their scent.
Never force your cat to sniff or interact with their new family, let it all be on their terms. Remember, you should never leave your cat alone unattended with your baby.