Introducing Your New Baby To The Family Cat

Welcoming a new human baby into the family is a joyous time for everyone . . . except the pets.  Why?  Because the attention once lavished on them is now given to the infant.  They are confused, upset and sometimes even jealous of the new addition.  Here are my recommendations for making this a more pleasant experience for the feline members of your family.

Before The Birth
1)  Make sure your cat is up-to-date on their vaccinations and parasite control.  Recheck a fecal sample within thirty days of your due date just to be safe.
2)  Allow the cat to explore all the baby items you acquire.  Let them sit in the crib, stroller, etc., until the novelty has worn off, then clean the items before the baby arrives.
3)  Decondition the cat to the sound of a crying baby.  Buy a CD or record a friend or family member’s child and play it for the cat regularly.  Start with the volume low and slowly increase.  To make this even more real, carry a doll in your arms when the CD is playing.
4)  If changes will be made in sleeping arrangements, furniture placement, etc., make them before the baby comes home.  For example, many cats sleep in bed with their owners (or more accurately, the cats allow the people to sleep in their bed!)  Once baby arrives, many poor cats are suddenly kicked-out of the bedroom to protect the baby.  So, it is only natural that the cat associates the baby with getting kicked out!  It is far better to make changes before the baby arrives to prevent this negative association.
5)  Consider a crib tent to keep the cat out of the crib once the baby has arrived.
6)  Consider installing a screen door on the nursery which allows the cat to see, hear and smell the baby without access.
7)  Right before your child’s birth, trim the cat’s nails.

When Mom And Child Are At The Hospital
1)  Bring home blankets or other items with the baby’s scent on it.
2)  Dad should spend one-on-one time with the cat in the same clothes used to hold the baby.
3)  Exercise the cat as much as possible before the baby comes home.  It will make the introduction better.

Bringing Your Baby Home
1)  Note that this is very important – Mom should go in alone while someone else stays outside with the baby.  Greet your cat and shower them with affection.  Since you have been gone for a day or two, it is important to re-establish the bond with your cat.  Let them know that they are still your ‘baby’ even though you now have another one.  Spend at least fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time together before you bring the child inside.  It is vitally important for your cat to focus on you without the distraction of a baby crying or the commotion of visitors in the household.   
2)  Number two is a repeat of number one.  I cannot stress enough how important this step is.  Do not let an impatient dad come into the house with the baby too early!  Make it clear that the baby stays outside until the mother calls them in.
3)  After re-bonding with your pet, introduce them to the baby.  Keep the child wrapped in a blanket for protection during the cat’s inspection.  If the cat is calm, pull the blanket away to expose a foot or hand.  Slowly and calmly, let them sniff the child until they get bored.  Clean milk off the child’s face and clothes before the introduction so the cat doesn’t try to lick it off. 
4)  For the remainder of the day, spend as much time with your cat as possible.  Try to do the things your cat loves to let them know that everything is okay.  Spoil them with a few treats and lots of chin rubs.  Let them know that they will always be your ‘baby’ too. 

A Word Of Caution
I never recommend leaving a baby or young child alone with a pet of any kind.  It is too easy for an accident to occur.  Allow supervised access only until the child is old enough to understand the proper way to interact with a pet.  Most of all, count yourself blessed.  The miracle of life is wonderful in both it’s human and animal forms! 

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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