The process of introducing your baby to your cat is a lot longer than you think. It’s not just a howdy-do here’s your new roommate type of situation. Since your baby is going to grow so fast, your cat is going to have to get used to each stage of the baby’s life just like you do. Spoiler alert: your cat will hate your child as a toddler. Here’s how to introduce your baby to your cat.
I think cats can tell when you’re pregnant. At least, my cat Mr. Meowgi seemed like he knew. He would always curl up on my belly on top of Toot. There were a few times when she kicked him, and he was not happy about it. He also was very interested in what we were doing with the spare bedroom and why we took his perch by the window and moved it to our bedroom.
You’ll want to start introducing the cat to your baby even before the baby is born. Babies aren’t just life changing for you, they’re also life changing for your cat. He’s going to have to get used to new furniture, a completely new routine, and a very loud, small person taking up a lot of your time. So you should start preparing your cat as soon as you start preparing.
You can do this by:
- Allowing kitty to snuggle your belly. (Don’t let him sit on top of you if it hurts you.)
- Allowing him to be in the room while you put the nursery furniture together. (but it’s best to keep him out of it when you’re not there. You don’t want dander in the crib.)
- Showing some of the new clothes and toys to him.
- Buying your cat toys that will entertain him while you’re going through the newborn phase and won’t have much time or energy to play.
- Talking to your cat about the new baby. (Ok, I’m not sure if this actually works but I did it anyway. And I referred to the baby as his new brother or sister. This is probably more for you than the cat.)
- Make sure you prepare a plan for when you’re in the hospital. You’ll need someone to feed your cat while you’re gone.
Bringing Home the Newborn
Your kitty may be curious about the hairless kitten you brought home and want to get a closer look. Or he might just take one look and head the other direction wanting nothing to do with your new favorite. Mr. Meowgi was the latter. He was curious but curious from a distance. He had met her older cousins, and they chased him around the house so he probably thought Toot could jump out of her bassinet and chase him.
If your kitty is the curious type, make sure you don’t let him get too close. Even if you trust your cat completely, you still don’t know what he could do in a new situation like meeting your fragile little child.
Another concern with kitty being too close is allergies and bacteria. I don’t know if you know this, but cats are gross. They lick their own butthole. You probably shouldn’t let your cat’s tongue grace your baby’s skin until they’re a little older. You also don’t know if your baby is allergic to cat dander. So it’s best to keep kitty from sleeping in the boppy and away from baby’s things as much as possible for at least the first couple months.
Don’t ever leave your baby unattended with a cat or where a cat could get to her. If you lay the baby down for a nap, close the door to keep kitty out. Odds are the cat won’t do anything to intentionally harm the baby, but it’s best to be safe.
I’ve accidentally locked Mr. Meowgi in Toot’s room while she was sleeping at least 5 or 6 times because he just darts in there when I lay her down. But he usually just curls up on the bottom shelf of her changing table or in her rocking chair. The worst he has done is jump up on the railing of her crib and walk around it. I was able to see him on the monitor when he did that. He got ninja grabbed out of her room and she didn’t even notice he was there.
Oh, No! Baby is Mobile
This is the stage kitty is going to hate the most. His worst nightmare is coming true. The slimy, loud person is able to grab him and chase him now. Bless our cat for being so understanding. He let Toot grab him and pull his tail, and he never once took a swipe at her. Mr. Meowgi would just wait for us to come rescue him from the grasp of our overly excited child.
You are now in the stage of protecting the cat from the baby. You also still need to protect the baby from the cat since he will probably be on defense at this point. Obviously, never let your child harm your cat because yes, it’s bad for the cat, but also because the cat will try to defend himself by clawing or biting.
You will need to give your cat an area he can get to that the baby cannot access. This will be a place where he can feel safe and destress after dealing with the tiny monster in his house. We have a cat tree behind our couch that Toot can’t get to. We also have gates up to keep her out of the kitchen but the cat can easily jump over to get to safety if he needs to.
Keep the litter box and cat food in a safe space. You don’t want the baby to get into them anyway, but keeping them in a safe from baby space will put your cat at ease when he feels like he’s vulnerable.
Teaching Your Toddler to Be Nice to Kitty
This can be tricky. Toddlers have a tendency to not know their own strength and not understand what hurts other people or animals. They also get overly excited about kitties. I could see the fear in Mr. Meowgi’s eyes when Toot would run screaming at him with her hands out. She, on the other hand, thought it was a blast and wanted to play.
Lead by example. Show your toddler how to pet kitty while saying something like “nice,” “gentle,” or “soft.” You’ll want to do this when your cat is calm, not when he’s ready to play.
The next step is to allow your toddler to try petting kitty nicely. You can start by guiding her hand and repeating the word you chose. We went with “nice.” She gets reminded to be nice to kitty anytime she’s around him. Eventually, she learned not to make a grabbing motion and started doing a petting motion while saying “nice!”
You’ll have to constantly remind your child to be nice, don’t pull tails, and calm down around kitty. It’s especially important during this time to not leave them alone together. You’re just begging for trouble if you do.
Pre-school age and beyond
By the time your toddler becomes a preschooler, they should be the best of friends (or at least tolerate each other). Pre-school age is a great time to start learning to care for kitty. Your child can learn when and how to feed him and give him water. I wouldn’t suggest making a kid clean a litter box, though. Save that for when they’re teenagers and start asking for the car keys.
How do your baby and cat get along?
Let me know in the comments below!
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