Dear Miss Kitty,
I’m expecting a new baby in a few months and am worried about my cat Ranger, who was my first “baby.” What can I do to help him adapt to my little one?
A photo on social media shows a forlorn kitty locked outside with the caption “I thought I was your baby.” It’s common for rescues to end up with perfectly fine cats who couldn’t adapt to having a new baby in the house.
Bringing home a baby does indeed change everything…for everyone! Cats adapt best to big changes if they have time to adapt to smaller ones, a little at a time. Here are 4 tips for helping your cat adjust before you bring home your little one, and maybe save him or her from having to find a new home.
Introduce new sounds
Cat hearing is far more acute than humans and even more so than dogs. This explains why most cats show discomfort or fear with loud noises.
Your new baby will be making sounds your cat has never heard before. You can get your cat accustomed to these noises by making or purchasing a recording of baby sounds and playing it for your cat (see our website for resources). Please start off quietly and for a few minutes at a time, building up time and volume until your cat no longer pays attention to the sound.
Introduce new smells
While cats don’t have as many smell receptors as dogs do, their sense of smell is still very strong. New parents will probably be using many products their cats have never before smelled, so it’s helpful to start using (or at least having around) baby lotions and powders before the little one comes home.
Baby waste is another thing your cat has probably never encountered. If you can, borrow a friend’s baby to help get the cats used to the smell of diapers.
Shift the affection
It will be impossible to keep up the level of affection you have with your cat once your new baby arrives. If mom-to-be is the main caretaker for the cat, it may help to transfer some of that time and love to another member of the household. Even a one-person cat’s affections can be shifted to someone else with the help of treats, extra playtime and/or clicker play. You can start by putting someone else in charge of feeding and go from there.
When the baby arrives, try to give your cats at least some one-on-one attention, using their names to distinguish between cooing at them and cooing at the baby.
Practice with equipment
Babies come with lots of new stuff, like strollers, car seats, carriers, bouncers, swings and later on, high chairs. Purchasing these things ahead of time and letting your cats mark them appropriately with their cheeks and tails may save them from feeling the need to do it inappropriately after the baby comes.
Once your baby grows into a toddler, please remember that life with him or her can still be complicated for your cat. Toddlers simply don’t have the motor skills to handle cats gently, so please supervise any interaction up to about three years old. They’ll then be able to learn how to hold and pet…and appreciate the purrs of a happy, child-friendly cat!