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Kitty and a new baby

Adjusting to a new baby doesn't have to be stressful for kitty.
Adjusting to a new baby doesn't have to be stressful for kitty.

Having a baby means many changes in the lives of the new parents and immediate family. What some people don’t realize is that pets, especially cats, are also very sensitive to changes in their environment. Cats like a routine, staid schedule for the most part.

A new baby in the house is everything but routine and staid. The activity level drastically changes. The noise level rises. Long, drowsy nights disappear for a while. Visitors “invade” kitty’s space. Any cat can become upset and react negatively to new baby issues.

The time to prepare kitty for baby changes is long before the baby arrives. After all, it takes a while for the baby to become part of the family; it will take a while for kitty to adjust, too. Here are some tips to help the changes go more smoothly.

1. Bring in baby gear well ahead of time. The crib, changing table, new paint, layette items, linens, lotion, powder, etc. all have a unique smell that may be very unfamiliar to kitty. Introduce kitty to them one at a time, allowing her to sniff, walk around, rub her scent on them, and generally approve. Even the car seat has that plastic smell for a while. Once kitty finds baby gear isn’t threatening, she will be fine. Just remember gradual is the way to go.

2. To prepare your cat for a new baby, consider getting a special cat bed. Use lavish praise and treats to reinforce its use, combined with gentle aversion methods, like a spray bottle, to keep her off the nursery gear. Cats don’t kill babies, like the old wives’ tale says. They are naturally curious and just want to find out more information about the new family member. Until a baby can roll over, kitty/baby time is best when supervised by mom or dad.

3. One baby comes home, be vigilant but respect your cat’s style, and don’t push her away. Let her look, listen, and sniff, and praise her for being a good cat. You may want to give your cat a special treat or gift on homecoming day, to create a positive association with the arrival of your baby. Build in some extra kitty time, too- special play time makes her feel grand and important.

4. You’ll need lots of help during the first weeks and months of your child’s life. When you’re lining up friends and family to fold your laundry and deliver hot meals, don’t forget your cat. Pick someone your cat knows and trusts, and invite them over to groom, play with, and generally lavish attention on your cat while you tend to the baby. (And catch up on sleep.) If baby has siblings, assign them pet time.

A new baby can be a source of stress for your cat, but with a little patience and love, your expanded family can live in peace and harmony. And in case you start wondering whether it’s worth all the trouble to prepare your cat for a new baby, keep this in mind: Studies have shown that cats can help make babies healthier.

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