How to Introduce a Cat to a Baby
While they may come with fewer demands than their canine cousins, your cat’s very first time getting up close and personal with a newborn baby is a delicate moment. Cats are highly sensitive animals by nature — often far more so than dogs — and often require a prolonged adjustment period when the boat rocks.
Or in the case of a newborn: capsizes. We mean that in the most loving way.
Alexa, Play Baby Sounds
As the due date draws nearer, think about the ways you can welcome the baby into your cat’s life before he even arrives.
- It may seem like overkill, but it’s a good idea to get your cat accustomed to baby sounds before they’re thrust into the thick of it. The giggles, the coos, the cries. YouTube has you covered.
- Moving your cats litterbox, bed, toys or even favorite chair is almost an inevitably with the influx of baby accoutrements about to take over your living room. Try to get ahead of it before your baby comes home and get your cat accustomed to the new layout to avoid their cold shoulder.
- If your cat likes to roam the neighborhood, the ASPCA recommends that you keep your cat inside for the home stretch, protecting Mom-to-be and baby-to-be from potential parasites they could pick up from mice, birds or other cats.
Easing Into the Intro
In some ways, adjusting to a baby and a cat under the same roof can feel like one continuous, months-long introduction. If your cat isn’t purring at their sight within 24 hours (or worse — starts hissing), don’t take it personally.
Cats need time, but there are things you can do to help jog the process along:
- Do the meet-and-greet in a quiet, controlled environment. Hide your dog elsewhere for a moment if they have a tendency to get excited, and let your cat warm up to the baby’s smells and sounds on their own clock.
- If you’re worried about your cat’s defense mechanisms kicking into high gear, try doing the intro from behind a screen or with your baby hidden in a bassinet. Anxious cats can get defensive quickly, and the last thing you want to add to the equation is a newly sharpened set of claws.
- If it seems like your cat is tolerating or even interested in your baby, allow closer to contact to let them sniff one another out. Science even says that adolescent contact between babies and cats can help reduce the child’s risk of allergies as they grow.
Growing up together
As the days go on and your baby turns into a toddler, there are plenty of ways to continue growing the relationship between your little anklebiters.
- Toddlers have a tendency to pull, yank or bat at almost anything they come into contact with. Tails included. The hypnotic movements of a cat’s tail combined with the contrast of their fur against the ceiling, can lead to your toddler mistaking it for a toy. Teach them early and often that your cat’s tail is their property alone to avoid any dustups.
- Allow your child to play with your cat in supervised doses. A simple mouse on a string can be as much for the cat as your child, and all that dashing and darting makes for great exercise.
- Calming plug-in diffusers could help put your cat at ease, gradually releasing pheromones to signal the all-clear. They shouldn’t run more than $20 or $30, and often come with replaceable cartridges. If the months go on and your cat still hasn’t warmed up, it’s worth a try.
Congratulations on the new addition, and best of luck the rest of the way!