Cats and the New Baby


IMG_20130528_201908“We’re having a baby, so we have to get rid of our cat. Can you take it?”

We get asked this a lot at Cats In Need. And it breaks our hearts.  

Because 99% of the time, there’s no problem with having a cat and a baby. Or multiple cats and a baby.  

It’s all in how your parent the fur babies and the new human addition.

Preparation, education, and love for everyone can make it work, and work well! 

1185021_588197711218484_627240331_nHere’s a personal story, from one of our own CIN team members: 


Throughout my pregnancy last year people who knew that we had cats would ask me, “What are you going to do about the cats when the baby comes?” or “Are you getting rid of your cats with the baby comes?”

And to me, that was the equivalent of asking, “Are you getting rid of the first child when the second one comes?”

I’d always say “Of course not! They’re part of the family too!”

And then I’d get to field well-meaning questions about all the myths…

1) The Litterbox:  “But what about cleaning the litterbox? It’s dangerous!”

Toxoplasmosis is really not a concern. Here’s why – you’ve likely already been exposed as a child from laying in the sandbox and thus have already developed an immunity, which in turn is passed to your baby. Furthermore, you’re more likely to get toxoplasmosis as an adult from raw meat or gardening than from your cat’s poop!  Especially if you have an indoor cat!

Our solution was simple: he scooped.  I liked this one, ’cause then I could skip litter box duty ;)

(Read more at thecatsite.com, peteducation.com, & catexclusive.com)

Elizabeth cuddling with the new baby. She liked to jump up on my lap while I was nursing and get cuddles.

2) Smothering: “But cats can steal the baby’s breath!”

Putting aside the witchcraft assumptions, the closest bit of reality in this statement is that the cat shouldn’t be left to cuddle and sleep with a new baby as there could be some suffocation dangers.

While the kitty may want to cuddle (as opposed to my 5 who were all terrified and did NOT want to cuddle with this screaming kicking new thing) and sleep with or on the baby, this is not safe – babies need space to breathe, and a cat sitting on a tiny infant’s chest can make it hard for them to breathe… so don’t let the kitties in the crib/bassinet/etc. with the baby. Problem solved.

3) Allergies: “But what if your baby is allergic to cats?!”

Well, there’s a possibility, even though both her Daddy and I aren’t allergic, that she might develop allergies at some point. We’ll deal with it should it happen, rather than preemptively dump our cats.

Plus, I’ve learned that having pets can actually help reduce the possibility of allergies! Livescience.com has the details. It’s still too early to be certain, but I think it’s in the same category of the importance of babies being exposed to some dirt in life in order to build their immunity to illness.

How We Made It Work: Introducing Baby

Proof-007

Our new ‘kitten’ in her official newborn photos

My husband and I knew that we didn’t have to decide between our cats and our new baby.  So we did some research and decided that the best way to bring a new baby into our cat home was to treat the experience as a combination of introducing a new cat to the cats and introducing a new sibling to a human toddler.

Our five cats are 11 years old, two six year olds, a 3 year old and a two year old. We didn’t get them all at once, and so we’ve had lots of practice introducing new kitties to our household.

Elizabeth keeping an eye on the new arrival, and her mommy.

First, we made sure that as we prepared the home for our little one’s arrival, the cats had access to the new things before she arrived. We set up the pack and play downstairs, made sure they had access to her room (while keeping the crib full of baby stuff so they wouldn’t claim it as a sleeping place of their own), and set up a plan for how we’d handle preparing them for her arrival.

When packing the hospital bag, I packed a spare small baby blanket to wrap her in so that my husband could then take it home and introduce the kitties to her smell before her arrival.

IMG_4573

Sebastian, curious. He doesn’t want to cuddle with her, but he likes to be nearby to keep an eye on her.

We also made sure that once she arrived home, there was no danger of the kitties perceiving her as a ‘drain on the resources’ of the home – we doubled wet food (they got breakfast and dinner) so that they didn’t see her as a new cat threat to the food supply.

We knew that our more needy cats would possibly get jealous of the attention our new little one was receiving, and we needed to do our best to make sure to head off possible ‘sibling rivalry’ by giving extra attention to our furbabies, especially after her arrival.

We made sure that if one of our kitties jumped up on the couch with us while we had the baby, we gave cuddles rather than pushing the kitty away.  We also gave them the space to be nearby and watching (curiosity is good!) without pushing the baby on them.

Zoe has been fascinated by all the baby stuff (she’s the one likely to be found sleeping on the changing table) and is now more comfortable being in the same area as the baby

And we rewarded good kitty behavior around her with praise and cuddles.

We were also careful that all interactions were monitored with us there to help – after all, she could flail or cry and scare the kitties, who could panic and hurt her because they didn’t realize that they weren’t in danger.

Our newborn is now nearly 4 months old, and just starting to be interested in the cats.  For the longest time, while they were aware of her she didn’t seem to notice them.  Now she’s starting to track them as they walk by and show an interest in them. Soon she’ll be mobile and crawling after them, and a whole new set of precautions and teaching will have to be put in place.

 

Other good resources: WebMD – Introducing Cat to Baby, and the same article at the ASPCA site. The Humane Society web site.