Helping Cats and Babies Get Along - Introduction and Solving Problems
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When considering the happy coexistence of cats and babies, one important factor is who came first? Often, families may adopt a pet before they have children. Some even do so to test their capacity for meeting responsibilities. For this reason, most families will have a baby after a cat has already been in their lives for some time. Since cats are territorial animals, this can bring up various issues. Although cats are thought of as being independent, when they don't have the attention they crave, they can exhibit problematic behavior.
At AnimalWised we provide some useful information about helping babies and cats to get along. This starts with the introduction of the cat with a newborn baby, but we also give you some tips to help ensure they develop the happy and healthy coexistence they should have.
What to consider before the baby arrives
To make the coexistence of cats and babies as harmonious as possible, you will need to start preparing as soon as you know a baby is on their way. This means taking into account the fact that your cat will look unborn the newborn almost as an alien. They emit strange and foreign noises (such as crying), they have distinct smells, they often treat cats as if they were toys and they present completely unpredictable behavior.
Cats are creatures of routine. Babies are disrupters of routine. From the beginning, any routine the cat has developed will be immediately affected. They will have learned experience of how things in the home will work. The newborn baby is learning this experience anew and will act in a trial and error method to understand their surroundings. This will include their interactions with the cat.
The first moments of their introduction will be vital to their peaceful coexistence. We should remember not to take our eyes of either of them when together and not to leave them alone. The cat may become aggressive, but this is unlikely. If they do not want to be around the newborn, they will most likely avoid them. More commonly, it is the baby who will want to grab the cat to investigate them, but only when they have started to explore.
How to stop a cat from being jealous of the baby
Although cats are generally more headstrong than dogs, this does not mean they cannot adapt to new situations. However, if we want to reduce the chances of jealous behavior with the newborn, we need to take certain steps.
Firstly, we need to still pay attention and spend time with the feline. Although the new baby will take up most of our time, we need to ensure our cat receives the engagement they need. This means stimulating them both physically and mentally. Fortunately, this can be as much as stroking them on our lap when we are passed after a long day.
Despite tiredness with the new baby, we need to make the effort. During the change in routine, we need to provide positive reinforcement, so it may be necessary to give them more treats and affection before. If we don't, they might become insecure, display jealousy and develop behavioral problems. Also, ensure the cat's toys and the baby's are separated.
Introducing your cat to a newborn baby
The first impressions are very important. Starting off on the right foot is easier than trying to counteract a negative first experience for the cat. When the baby is born, if possible, it is ideal to take home some blankets or other items which have their smell. This way, when the newborn first arrives home, the cat will sense some familiarity.
When bringing the blanket, we should positively reinforce the cat with attention, treats and affection. This way they will associate the smell with good things. This is one of the best ways to start off on the right foot. Once actually introducing the cat and baby, we should remember:
- The first moments are important. As with any curious animal, the cat will approach the baby cautiously or, even, fearfully. We will also have to be cautious. Be next to the cat and stoke them gently. Only use a soft and reassuring tone of voice. If the cat approaches the baby and tries to interact with them, be careful. Watch out for any signs of aggression and remove the baby if you see any. What happens here will depend on the individual cat. If you trust they will not cause any harm, you can let them interact. If you fear they might bite or scratch, gently remove the baby, but do not create a scene.
- In the event that the cat is scared of the newborn, do not force interaction. Let them get over their fear themselves, otherwise you may make the situation worse. Eventually, they should be able to get along.
- Even if the introduction of the baby to the cat goes smoothly, do not let the first contact last too long. Distract the cat with some entertaining games and help them to understand they will still get attention even the presence of a newborn.
Tips to help cats and babies get along
If you follow these tips, you will ensure that the relationship between cats and babies is safe and secure. As the child develops, their bond with the cat should grow along with it. However, you must be patient and implement the correct measure to ensure they get along well:
- Don't take your eye off the baby when a cat is around. When the baby sleeps, a cat may see their crib as a cosy place to sleep, so ensure you keep the door closed and never allow them access.
- If you think there is any chance of the baby having an allergic reaction, take the cat to a veterinarian immediately. Check for rashes and coughing.
- Before the baby arrives, try to amend the cat's routine. Change the place where they eat and move their litter tray (while still keeping them both somewhere appropriate). This means the cat won't necessarily associate the changes with the baby.
- The cat should get used to both the smell and sound of the baby. No area of the house should be off limits to the child.
- Trim the cat's nails regularly to minimize the risk of scratches. If you don't know how to do it, consult your vet.
- The cat must be clear about what is prohibited when you are holding the baby or feeding them. They should not be allowed to approach them inappropriately, jump upon them or try to get into their crib
- You need to know your pet well. Pay attention to their body language as much as possible. When they require attention, we must give it to them whenever possible. If they are agitated, it is better to let them calm down and remove the baby from their environment.
- To a large extent, the cat's behavior will be a reflection of that shown by their guardians when they approache the baby. Try not to show fear of what may happen. The cat will feel calmer and can approach the baby at their own pace. Instill confidence instead of fear.
- Each cat is a different individual. Taking into account the character and personality that you already know, you can foresee certain behaviors with respect to the baby.
- Always take great care of the hygiene of the home. Do not let the cat interact with the baby if they are in any way dirty or likely to transmite disease.
While there are some difficulties, making the effort to help cats and babies get along will result in a bond from which both will benefit. Also keep in mind, the latest studies reveal that children who grow up with a pet are generally at less risk of disease.
Should I get a cat if I have a baby?
We have stated that in the majority of occasions, cats will be introduced to babies after the baby comes into our lives. However, this is not always the case. Some people decide they want to make their family larger quickly and bring a cat into the family when they have a newborn baby. Others may be offered a cat or find a rescue animal.
However, adopting a cat at a time when your baby needs so much attention is not a good idea. You will be adding more stress to a situation which can be notoriously difficult. Most families will have some struggles, especially when it is their first child.
While you will not want to get rid of your cat when a baby arrives, adopting a cat does have certain risks. These threaten the health and the well-being of newborn babies (although the majority of cases will be fine). It is best to wait until the child is a little more grown and able to understand the responsibility of keeping a cat.
Overall, we need to respect the nature of cats and babies, meaning there is potential for conflict. Not respecting the nature of cats is one mistake human guardians commonly make. Check out this video below to see some more:
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