Welcoming a new baby into the home is a joyful time for parents, but it can also be confusing and stressful for your cat — who may not welcome the change to “normal” routine.
Here are some steps you can take to make things less traumatic for your pet.
1. Sounds and Smells
Help your cat to adjust to the changing situation via the sounds and smells that will be commonplace once the baby arrives.
Try using baby lotion and CDs of baby-related sounds. Rewards can be used to encourage positive associations with the introductions.
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2. Schedule Changes
Cats are creatures of habit, and the chaos of a baby could easily leave your cat feeling hugely distressed and anxious.
Gradually adjusting to the schedule that will be in place once the baby arrives will help your cat feel more comfortable and give him more chances to adapt to the changes that will inevitably happen.
3. Playtime Frequency
In the run-up to the birth, you may be tempted to lavish your cat with attention and affection to compensate for the baby’s arrival. But in doing so, you risk causing further confusion and stress when this doesn’t continue after the baby comes home.
Instead, use the pregnancy period to gradually move playtime to times that will still be feasible so your cat won’t feel pushed out in favor of the baby.
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4. Litter Box Blues
Try to strike a good balance when deciding where to place your cat’s litter box. It should be in a spot that will not be within reach for the baby — but at the same time, it shouldn’t be in a place that your cat is too reluctant to use.
5. Spay or Neuter
If your cat has not already been spayed or neutered, this would be a good time to have it done. As well as offering health benefits, spaying/neutering would likely make your cat calmer and less inclined to act aggressively.
6. Baby Room Barriers
Will your cat be banned from the baby’s room? A robust barrier such as a safety gate will prevent access without shutting your cat out altogether. He will still be able to see, hear and smell the baby without being able to interact.
7. Crib Access
If you don’t plan to prevent access to the baby’s room, you may be worried that your cat will try to sleep in the baby’s crib. Discourage this from the start by attaching double-sided sticky tape to the edges so that your cat is not so keen to access the crib. This will create a negative association with the crib.
8. Refuge Room
If you are expecting to receive guests after the baby comes home, set up a quiet room where your cat can seek sanctuary. This also be where your cat goes to get away from the baby if things become overwhelming. The room should contain food, water, a litter tray and a comfortable sleeping area.
Check in with your cat regularly while this room is being used and offer treats and affection. If he doesn’t want to come out, don’t force the issue — wait until he feels comfortable enough to venture out.
9. Escape Tower
Set up “perches” that your cat can use to escape from the baby. This can be as simple as cat trees or scratching posts with platforms. These should be suitably out of reach for a toddler in preparation for the baby learning to crawl.
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This featured contribution was written by Sally Aquire, who blogs about all things pets at Animed Direct.