Expecting your first human child is stressful enough, let alone the added worry about how your beloved cat will adjust to or accept a new member of the family.
While every cat is different, there are a number of general considerations and some helpful measures you can take to make your pet (and yourself) a little more relaxed about the inevitable change to the household.
Ensure your cat has accessible safe places for a quick escape if interactions or new noises become too much. When they feel overwhelmed, scared or anxious, having somewhere to retreat to and withdraw is an important coping strategy.
Vertical space which allows them to get up high and have a vantage point to monitor their environment safely is extremely helpful! Some simple shelves or a cupboard can serve this purpose.
A tall cat tree or cat gym with hiding holes is a perfect observatory from your feline’s point of view and will provide them with somewhere to hide away from the hustle and bustle below.
Cat window hammocks are another great idea and relatively inexpensive. Most attach with suction and can be moved to whichever position your cat feels most comfortable in.
Where possible provide a quiet room with a beloved cat bed or box they can access and hide in to relax.
Be patient! Don’t force interactions
Cats generally can be fearful of anything unexpected or new. They like living within the safe calm, consistent comfort of their home territory. They can become very unsettled and take a lot of time to get used to new things that appear in their environment. They can often become very grumpy, irritable, or aggressive, or perhaps just quiet and shut down when new additions to the family come along.
Cats don’t enjoy being forced to do anything and prefer to accept and adjust to new situations on their own terms.
Don’t force your cat to be near your newborn and vice versa. Some gentle encouragement in the form of pats or treats as your cat becomes more confident around the baby may help in some situations. It is a huge priority to ensure you set up positive associations for your cat in regards to the new baby. You need to make sure when your cat is around the baby that they feel comfortable and happy and expect good things to happen.
You must NEVER punish your cat around the baby! This will be counter-productive and only make your cat feel scared in the presence of the baby.
Supervise interactions to avoid injuries to both your cat and your baby, especially as your baby grows and learns to pull and grab. Manage the situation so that your cat always has a choice whether to interact and can escape at any time.
Always teach your child to be gentle from as early an age as possible. When old enough, you will need to teach your children to read and understand cat body language so they can be attuned to how your cat feels and will likely behave.
For the more volatile feline friends who may be inclined to show aggression, having regular nail trims is a must (indoor cats only). If you’re not sure how to do this yourself, or can’t, please make a booking with one of our highly experienced veterinary nurses.
The safest rule when it comes to pets and children is: they must NEVER be left alone together, even for a moment.
Feliway sprays and diffusers release a feel-good feline pheromone into the environment which will reduce your cat’s anxiety. Diffusers can be put into your cat’s favourite or frequented area while sprays can be applied directly to the bedding or sleeping areas.
Most importantly: Don’t forget your cat
Whether they are the affectionate or the non-affectionate type, whatever you did with them before make sure you incorporate or set aside some time to continue to show them how much you love them.
There is a fantastic book available called “How to Tell Your Cat You’re Pregnant” - this a great resource covering lots of specific handy hints for helping your cat have the best chance of a healthy resilient adjustment to the appearance of your new baby.
Your cat may just surprise you with their ability to adjust and the affection they may have towards your child.
Importantly, if you are experiencing any behavioural problems with your cat or are worried they are not or will not cope, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment with our behavioural veterinarian Dr Elle Parker, who will be able to advise and guide you. Please call 8169 9777 for more information.