Photo: Marisa Svalstedt

Bringing baby home is a wonderful moment. While we couldn’t wait to lavish every bit of our attention on our little one, it was also important to remember not to leave our fur-babies out. Any caring pet owner knows their pets need time, and attention, which includes preparing them for changes in the household.  We weren’t sure how our cats would react to the new smells, sounds, changes in schedules and new boundaries. My husband and I didn’t want to worry about needing to separate our cats, or even face re-homing them due to our baby’s arrival. After some research, and some attentiveness we found there are many things one can do in order to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone!

1. Set boundaries early on

Most people set up the nursery long before the baby is born, which means there are plenty of new things to attract kitty’s attention. While you don’t want to alienate your cat, you do want to set some clear boundaries as to where your furry friend shouldn’t venture.  Most cats will be attracted to cribs and bassinets. To them, it’s a soft, cozy pet bed all for them. After all, they don’t see a baby anywhere so what else could be the purpose of these new pieces of furniture? Try either blocking your cat’s entrance to the bassinet and crib by placing something over the openings, or place tin foil within the crib or bassinet to deter your cat from getting cozy. Most cats do not enjoy tinfoil, and will not stick around in a crib that’s filled with the crinkly material. No one wants to deliver their newborn into a crib or bassinet filled with fur! As for worrying about kitty jumping in with the new baby, though there are stories floating around, most cats will run from the many sounds made by the newborn, or ignore the baby completely at first.  They will view the space as occupied, and move on.

2. Make some time to give your furry friends attention

Cats will become jealous if they feel ignored, threatened, and unnoticed. When they feel this way they will begin acting out to gain your attention, in the form of meowing, scratching doorways, or worse. It’s important not to forget our fuzzy family members, even when a new baby comes to take the spotlight. Take a moment to brush them, invite them to snuggle next to you when baby is with you as means of letting them know they are still important. Remembering to give the cats affection will help curb any jealousy, or irritating behaviors, making for a more harmonious household for all.

3. Take something that smells like baby home from the hospital before the homecoming

Bringing a hat, blanket, or onsie that carries baby’s scent is a great way to pre-introduce your cat to the new arrival. Having a parent, relative, or friend stop home with an item of clothing or bedding for your cats to smell will allow your pets to become used to baby’s scent. This process will help familiarize your pets early on so baby doesn’t seem so terribly foreign when making his/her entrance.  The more comfortable your cat feels with the introduction of the new bundle of joy, the smoother the transition.

4. Groom your cat well

While many pet owners know that they should brush excess fur and dander from their pets regularly, it’s more important to tend to your pet’s hygiene when a baby is entering the home.  The most important piece of this process is trimming your cat’s nails. Kitty nails are sharp, small, and easily catch on things when they aren’t filed or trimmed well. The last thing a new parent wants is for their cat to accidentally scratch the new baby, or have their paw caught in a blanket or article of clothing the baby is using. Not only will the cat feel traumatized from the upset caused by such a situation, protective parents may feel afraid to allow their cat near their baby after an incident, and inadvertently alienate the furry family members.

5. Give them time

There will most likely be a period of adjustment, as is the case with any major life change. Your cats may hide out so you scarcely see them in the first few weeks, or they may be pesky, wanting attention and exhibiting curiosity over the new baby. It’s important to remember to be patient with them, give them love, and allow them to adjust to the new member of the family. Keep close watch to make sure everyone is safe, but encourage interaction letting the cats explore, and understand this new person living in their space. In time they will grow used to the bundle of joy, and even become protective, and loving toward the baby of the house.

Bringing a new baby home is a happy day, as well as a stressful one for every member of the house, and this includes those covered in fur. We always viewed our cats as our family members, and therefore found it necessary to take steps to ensure their comfort. In time we found both cats warmed up to our new bundle of joy, and now, a few years later they are lovable companions. In addition, growing up with pets has allowed our daughter to learn how to properly treat animals. She understands the necessity for gentle, patient contact with our pets. Making the decision to re-home a pet is a tough one. Taking steps in acclimating pets to the changes a baby brings about helps ensure safety, and harmony in one’s home.

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