Tip Of The Day: What To Do When Your Cat Meets Your Baby

12/08/2009 12:47 | Updated 22 May 2015

Recently we looked at how to choose a pet for your family. But what happens when you already have a cat, and then you have a baby? What can you do to ensure that the two co-exist well? Will the baby be safe if the cat gets jealous?

Vicky Halls is the author of several best-selling books about cats, including Cat Counsellor: How Your Cat Really Relates to You. She's an acclaimed Pet Behaviour Counsellor with many years experience of treating behavioural problems in cats both in the UK and abroad. In 2008 Vicky was voted as the 'Nation's Favourite Cat Author' by the readers of 'Your Cat' Magazine.

She's currently working with Whiskas to find the cat version of Britain's Next Top Model to star on its packs of cat food (you can enter here if you've got a particularly photogenic cat).

This is Vicky's advice on how to introduce your baby to your cat:

Preparing your cat for the arrival of your baby

  • Make the decision about where the baby is going to sleep at night. If the cot is initially going in your bedroom then start denying access to your cat early in the pregnancy. Spray synthetic pheromones (Feliway®, available from your vet) against the doorframe if your cat reacts to the closed door and seems distressed

  • Ensure that the designated nursery is also made out of bounds at this stage so that it doesn't represent another change once the baby has been home for a few months

  • Introduce baby accessories (e.g. buggies, cots) over a period of time to avoid a sudden burst of challenging smells and objects. The pheromone spray Feliway® can also be applied to these items to minimize their impact. You may also want to purchase a cot and/or pram net. This will deter your cat and any flying insects

  • Bear in mind that the baby's arrival will have a greater impact on your cat if he is kept exclusively indoors. Housebound cats are more sensitive to changes in their environment.

  • If your cat is used to having your undivided attention it's important to gradually withdraw from him during the pregnancy; it will be virtually impossible to sustain the same degree of attention once the new baby arrives. Provide more stimulation for your cat, for example, more time outside or more activity indoors that will give him an outlet and interest outside his relationship with you.

    Imagine what your new responsibilities will be with the baby and create a timetable and new cat routine that will slot in nicely, including feeding, grooming and playing. If this routine is adopted as soon as possible it will reduce the impact of baby's arrival.

  • Encourage friends with babies to visit so that your cat gets used to their presence. Take care if small children are also present at these times as cats can find them overwhelmingly noisy and persistent.

    Always supervise encounters and ensure that any handling is gentle and appropriate. It's important to make the experience pleasant by using the positive reinforcement of food treats when children are around. If however your cat chooses to hide at these times, don't worry and don't pursue him or force him to interact.

  • Do not comfort him if he appears frightened of children; this is an inappropriate fear that should not be reinforced.

  • Plan ahead and ensure there are plenty of high resting places where your cat can retreat away from baby when he or she starts to crawl

Your baby's arrival

  • Try to stick to the cat routines you established during your pregnancy.

  • If you find you can't cope ask friends and family who know and love him to pop round and play with the cat. Your partner can help by paying greater attention to the cat while you are busy with the baby.

  • Create private spaces and secret nooks and crannies for your cat, just in case he finds everything overwhelming and wants to escape. This is perfectly normal and it's best to respect this. Wardrobes, cupboards, cardboard boxes with soft beds are all useful for this purpose.

  • Your cat may or may not be curious of the new arrival. If he wants to sniff the baby, don't panic! Introduce them in a quiet room where the cat has few associations – not in a place where the cat usually sleeps or eats. Reward your cat's calm behaviour with gentle praise and tasty titbits. If your cat prefers to run away from the baby don't force him to come back, he will investigate in his own time.

  • Keep the nursery or bedroom door closed when the baby is sleeping in his or her cot and, just before closing the door, make sure the cat isn't hiding somewhere in the room.
  • Keep all baby feeding utensils out of reach of your cat.

  • Try to keep calm; when you get overtired and anxious both baby and cat will react by becoming tense themselves.

  • Don't leave a new-born baby alone with your cat, no matter how trustworthy

How do your cat and baby get along? Leave a comment below


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