You have a cat and you are expecting a baby. You look at your cat and questions start to appear in your mind.
Will my cat get along with my baby? Will he/she hurt my baby (accidentally or not)? Should I continue owning my cat, or do I have to make the painful decision of sending him/her away in the case that she might cause harm to my baby?
These are all valid questions to have in mind, and there is nothing shameful if the thought of giving your cat away after your baby is born ever crossed your mind (unless it’s abandoning the cat into an uncertain future). After all, you are merely trying to seek the best solution for two of your loved ones.
However, the good news is – you can keep your cat AND your baby together, with some precautions (that will be highlighted in this post) of course.
Things To Do Before The Baby Arrives Home
There are multiple things that you can do before you give birth and bring the baby home to ensure a smooth transition for your cat, which will greatly reduce the amount of troubles that you face when the baby finally arrives home.
Firstly, babies make higher pitched voices and move very differently (unpredictably) as compared to adults, and your cat may find it strange or scary. This may result in a scared or aggressive reaction from your cat. To minimize chances of such cases happening with your baby, play short tapes/videos of a baby’s voice or cries to your cat before the baby arrives home. Your cat may be taken aback at first and show signs of fear or react aggressively. This is when you have to talk to your cat and calm him/her down. If he/she merely reacts calmly with curiosity, encourage the behaviour through praise.
Secondly, if you are changing a room that he/she has frequent access too, you might want to consider redecorating the room bit by bit instead of changing everything at once. This allows your cat to get used to the new items slowly instead having to experience multiple changes at the same time, which reduces the amount of stress your cat have to experience at any one point of time.
Thirdly, you may want to start using baby powder/lotion some time before your baby reaches home. Cats are very sensitive to smells and having your cat used to the baby power/lotion smell will help him/her accept your baby better due to the association of the smell with someone that he/she loves (you!), which will carry over to your baby.
Lastly, introduce items with your baby’s scent to your cat (if possible) prior to the introduction session. This allows your cat to understand that the new addition to the family is not as much of a stranger as he/she thinks it may be.
Even after you have completed all the steps above, there are several dangers that you should be aware of, which I will list down here.
Danger No. 1: If your cat is infected with a parasite (usually due to eating animals caught outside the house) and it passes on to you, it may result in birth defects or even miscarriages and stillbirths.
How To Prevent: It is suggested that you keep bring your cat to the veterinarian for a check-up the moment you know that you are pregnant, and keep your cat indoors if possible during the your pregnancy terms. It is also best to feed your cat cooked meat (if you do not feed him/her kibbles) to reduce the chances of infections. Of course, this is also the perfect time to ask your partner to help with the litter box!
Danger No. 2: Your cat may sleep near the head of the baby or, in rarer cases, directly on top of the baby. This is because cats enjoy being near warm bodies. This may cause the baby to experience suffocation which results in death.
How To Prevent: When your cat is near the baby, be there to supervise the interaction. In the case where you have to leave the baby alone without supervision, ensure that the cat is not in the same room/area. If not, you can always opt for a crib tent to put over the crib.
Danger No. 3: Your baby may do an action that provoke the cat, such as smacking his/her hand on your cat’s face accidentally, or pull the cat’s tail out of curiosity. Your cat may (or may not) hiss, snarl, or even scratch or bite your baby in return.
How To Prevent: Unfortunately, this case is not preventable, unless you can stop your baby in time. However, to prevent the situation from getting worse, separate the cat and the baby immediately for some time. If the baby is injured (especially with blood drawn) you might want to visit a local clinic. This again stresses the importance of supervised interaction between your cat and your baby.
Most people are aware of the possible dangers, but they do not know that having a cat with a baby has its benefits too.
Benefit No. 1: A research study published in Microbiome has shown that babies who are exposed to household pets have more protection against allergies and obesity due to a higher level of gut microbes. It is also known widely that having a household pet will heighten a child’s immune system to common allergens, making them less susceptible to allergies or infections.
Benefit No. 2: Having a cat at home allows your child to have an additional companion. Even though a baby is still developing his/her vocal and motor skills, it does not mean that they cannot interact with another person/animal. In fact, if your baby receives feedback from your cat (such as meowing or nudging) after an interaction, it will encourage your baby to offer interaction further – and this forms the basis for future social interactions.
Therefore, if you take the necessary precautions, having a cat and a baby together will bring you great joy and benefits for all parties!
If you have any questions that you want to ask, anything you wish to clarify, or simply want to express your thoughts and feelings, feel free to leave a comment!