Nothing can quite prepare you – or your pet – for that life-changing moment when baby becomes part of the family. But while others were at least informed well in advance of this tiny, hairless human’s arrival, the furry members of the household usually don’t know what hit them when Hurricane Bambino blasts through that front door.
Nobody likes to play favourites, yet, as new parents to a demanding, insatiable little one, Nip and Fluff’ll inevitably be supplanted to second position. Familiar routines will get turned upside down, and sloppy kisses, ear scratches and long walks will be suddenly, inexplicably rationed.
There are, of course, ways to make the transition less traumatic for your underfoot companions. Dogs are easier – behaviour classes, dedicated quality time, etc. works brilliantly, and the canine temperament is generally more tolerant (and forgiving); cats, however, are not into taking direction, and tend to be a truculent bunch when their creature comforts are messed with. But it’s still really important to prep them as much as possible – after all; for cat lovers, these furballs are usually our first ‘babies’ anyway!
Bluecross.org.uk has some helpful tips to get kitty through the turbulence, and accustomed to his new nemesis pal/ partner in crime:
1. Start your preparations early
You should start to make preparations four months in advance of the birth – do not leave it until the baby has arrived. Changes in routine, alterations to the home, AND having to contend with a stranger for mum and dad’s affections are way too many unwelcome things to deal with all at once.
All cats are different when it comes to handling – some are happy to be fluffed up all over, whereas others may only enjoy being stroked on their head or shoulders. The stomach area and tail are common sensitive spots. If your cat doesn’t like being touched in certain areas, be mindful of this when your tot begins toddling; it will only end in a stressed-out pet — and possibly a very upset baby.
To help prepare your cat for the unique sounds that babies make, play recordings of a baby crying, gurgling and screaming for short periods during the day. Initially the sound should be barely audible, increasing the volume gradually as your cat grows accustomed to the high-pitched noises.
A cat’s primary sense is smell, so new products and objects (and persons!) brought into the house can be particularly challenging and threatening for them. Get your cat used to baby powder, soaps, shampoos, etc. by using them (on your own skin) in the months leading up to baby’s debut. Playpens, cots, pushchairs, highchairs and changing mats should be in place before the baby arrives.
A Feliway diffuser, which is a synthetic version of the facial pheromones produced by the glands on your cat’s face, can help your cat feel more secure during this sensory onslaught.
When your baby becomes more mobile and starts to explore, cat food may become his preferred choice of snack unless you keep the kibbles out of reach. Accustom your cat to eating in an area, preferably off the ground, where your child won’t be able to get to.
6. A quiet place to go
Cats should always have a quiet, safe place to go to whenever they need to rest or retreat from the human species. This sanctuary will be especially important to them once the baby arrives and eventually begins to crawl, clamber and cause havoc. Cats prefer high, dark, secluded places that have a good view of the household activities. A tall scratching post with extra tiers (a ‘cat tree’) or a high shelf is ideal for this, as your cat will be able to conduct her reconnaissance at a comfortable distance.
Cat toys and baby toys are often indistinguishable to lil’ eyes and curious hands – so don’t be surprised if babs is found chewing the cat’s playthings. For the sake of hygiene and potential safety hazards, tidy the toys away, but remember to bring them out for your other ‘child’ when baby is asleep.
8. Resting and sleeping places
You should decide if you will need to change where your cat currently rests and sleeps. Gradually encourage your cat to sleep in other areas and then keep the off limits room shut. Make this and other changes a couple months prior to due date so your cat does not associate the change with the arrival of the baby.
9. Health matters
Make sure your cat’s immunisations are up to date, and that she’s free from fleas and worms. Any suspicions about illness or developing ailments should be checked out by a qualified vet, as pain or irritation will lower the cat’s tolerance to the changes that are about to happen, which may lead to spraying or aggression.