Recently many people have been asking me how to prepare their cats for arrival of the baby. Naturally we are worrying about the relationship between the newborn and the animal. Could the animal become a threat to a baby? Isn’t it too much to have a baby and a cat? Can the presence of the cat influence the baby and how? Could the child catch some animal disease and is it safe for the baby to be in an environment “polluted” by the cat? I will try to answer these questions in the below post.
My cats and my baby – what is it like in my home?
Before I gave birth to my son Olek, I was reading a lot on the subject but I couldn’t find any answers I was satisfied with.
Until recently there were 3 cats in my home – apart from Miciula and Dixi we also had Nulka who was looking for a new home (here is her story). In the apartment of about 50m2 three cats, two grown-ups and a baby seems like a crowd so initially I was worried a bit. Although, I am against bringing up children in a sterile environment I was also painfully aware of the amount of cat hair in our air. Luckily my fears were quickly dispersed and cats-child relation was nothing to worry about.
A cat and a baby – debunking myths about home and cat preparation
There are many various opinions on how to prepare the cat and the house for the arrival of the baby. The first one was to bring the newborn’s clothes home while he/she is still in the hospital so the cats have time to get familiar with the new smell…well… I couldn’t quite imagine how Dixi and Miciula would understand that the child is coming just because a new smell appeared in the house … so I dismissed this idea.
<Another article mentioned taking cats out of the house for a day and then bringing them back when the baby is already there. Well, that person must have had travel loving cats capable of finding little details that changed while they were gone.
Carrying a doll around the house was a third suggestion. My cats sleep almost all day and when they are awake they eat and play with each other. It does not make any difference to them if I’m carrying a plastic doll around, a laptop or that I have a phone stuck to my hand.
>Another person proposed buying new toys for cats every time we buy new stuff for the baby. I guess my cats would like this idea the most; however, my wallet would be empty in no time. I imagine they would be happy playing with the new toys but I don’t think they could possibly associate them in any way with the new crib or treat them as a consolation prize. They would still climb in and explore the new crib whenever possible.
The last article recommended gradually decreasing the amount of caressing and attention paid to the cats. And how is this supposed to work? So if I decide to have a baby I need to start rejecting my cats?… and if I decide to have another baby I will have to get rid of the cats altogether because I will have no time?
Important things to consider when a cat and a baby live under one roof
In my opinion cat-child relation depends on our approach. When I say “our” I mean the parents. There are different cats and if yours have the habit of jumping on your legs you have grounds to be worried that they might jump on a child as well. If your cats display any inappropriate behaviors you should take care of that whether you are expecting a child or not. If cats are behaving inappropriately it is because some of their needs are not getting satisfied and you cannot just ignore that. If your cats behave in a predictable pattern, love to play, run around and do not hurt anyone then there is no reason to think that they will hurt the newborn.
Crib – when to get the cat familiar with the crib? What to do if the cat sleeps in the crib?
Baby’s crib should be “untouchable”. It is a new item and it will attract cats’ attention so buy it early enough to give them time to get used to it but consistently remind them it is not a place for them. If there is nothing happening in the crib for a long time and yet cats insist on jumping in and checking it out over and over again maybe place a high scratching post close to the crib to give them a vantage point from where they can observe the crib rather than jumping in. If you notice that your cat is getting ready to jump into the crib grab a laser and point it to the post to redirect your cat’s attention. If you do it consistently cat should develop a habit of jumping on the post and not into the crib. Remember that cats do not understand the word NO – I wrote about that in my post My cat is spiteful. She is mean.
Take care of your cats’ health
Another very important thing is to make sure your cat and your child are healthy. Even if your cats do not go outside they still need to be dewormed regularly every three months because you might be the one bringing in parasites from outside, for example with the mud on your shoes. And don’t forget about vaccinations as prevention is better than cure.
A cat and a child – can I have both or will the cats end up in second place?
When I was pregnant everybody was telling me that once I give birth there will be no more room in my life left for my cats. I laughed at those comments and figured the animals these people have are not nearly as wonderful as my Miciula and Dixi. I am a very active person who does ten things at the same time; I cannot just sit and daydream. I never used to spend much time at home – I had my job and there was always something to do after: catch some semi-wild cats, bring a cat to a new home or take another to a vet. But no matter how busy I was I always knew I need to find time for my cats so we always spend evenings together playing with feathers and sleeping together. Because of my little son and his sleeping and feeding patterns I got stuck in the house but that only improved my relationship with the cats. I think I would have gone crazy without them – they were my companions when Olek was asleep and source of life entertainment when they were running around and Olek and me were just sitting and watching them. But if your child requires a lot of attention and you are exhausted taking care of him/her and of the house then you should ask somebody to help you by playing with the cats. Ten minutes of play and evening caresses is nothing but pleasure and anybody can do it.
Child’s health – allergies and such
As I mentioned earlier, I’m against bringing up children in a sterile environment. Sooner or later they will be exposed to various allergens and it is better that their immune system is strong and ready for them. So bringing up children around animals is good for their mental as well as physical health. I read an article by Finnish scientists who proved that children who were growing up around cats and dogs were less likely to get sick later in life: they had fewer ear infections, allergies and colds and flus compared to children who were not around animals in their first year. I think the Scandinavians were onto something…
<Cats can be an excellent tool to teach older children responsibility. Children who grew up around animals are more empathetic, caring and share their toys more willingly.
Cats with the child – is it really too much??
Cats do not see the child at the very beginning. They just smell new fresh blanket they want to check out and maybe catch a nap on. When the child starts crying cats become upset or uneasy because of the high-pitched voice but there is nothing to worry about. Like humans, cats have their habits and rituals: they eat at the same time from the same bowl, they sleep in the same favorite spot, they run around every day at the same time and everywhere so if at some point you restrict their territory and will not let them run around in the evening because they make too much noise and you get upset when they dig in the litter box too loudly at night they simply don’t know what is happening.
What will happen in your house after the child is born depends only on you. You are the grown-up and you need to find the way not to neglect your first pupil by focusing entirely on the child. I understand that the child comes first as I am a mom of a four month old baby boy but I cannot understand how can anyone consider throwing their cats out just because the child is born. You have to deal with the fact that your cat might need to pee and make a bit of noise in the litter box just as your child finally fell asleep and now he is crying again but you cannot punish your cat for his natural behavior. If you cannot deal with a bit of noise two running cats make what you are going to do when you have two children and the older one wants to run and play while the younger one is trying to take a nap. With the arrival of the child your life will change, it will become more intense, sometimes you will be too tired to shower but you cannot forget that a while ago you took on yourself responsibility to take care of animals that now rely on you so do not disappoint them because you are too lazy.