Introducing your baby to your cat is one of the most important first meetings in the early days.
Your fur baby is important to you – they were here first after all – but your first instinct is to make sure your baby is safe around your beloved pet.
Many pet owners come to think of their animals as part of the family. So it can be tricky to figure out how you can get your baby and pet to coexist without any drama.
While your cat might love you, we all know that kitties are creatures of habit. They love a quiet life, and they love being the centre of attention.
You may worry your cat will dislike the baby, because they will cry, poke the cat and maybe chase them all around the house once they are mobile.
If you’re wondering whether your cat will be safe with your baby, the answer is absolutely yes it is totally fine to have cats in the same house as your kids! They are wonderful pets and remain so after your kids are born. But there are a few safety tips you need to follow just to be safe.
I had two cats before my first baby was born. I worried they would hate the noise, and the fact that the baby’s arrival meant they would get much less attention. Most of all, I worried if the cat could pose a danger to the baby.
So this article will give you tips on how to get your cat ready for the baby and keeping baby safe in a home with cats.
Are cats dangerous for babies?
The broad answer to this is no, BUT it comes with a caveat that you do still need to be aware of the risks.
Instances of baby death where a cat was involved extremely, extremely rare. There was one case in Ukraine in 2019 where a cat was blamed for suffocating a nine-month-old baby while the child slept. The cat had apparently fallen asleep lying on the baby’s face, suffocating them.
However, while there are a tiny number, perhaps two or three, cases reported by media outlets where a cat may have been involved, there are none where an inquest concluded categorically the cat was responsible.
The main worry about cats and babies is that the cat sees the child’s bed as somewhere warm to cosy up, and can end up unintentionally suffocating the baby as they sleep.
There are also dangers associated with cat’s poo which can cause infections such as toxoplasmosis (which is why pregnant ladies are advised not to change kitty litter).
A scratch from a cat can get infected and lead to cat scratch fever, which causes swollen lymph glands and can be dangerous for very young babies.
How to prepare your cat for your baby
Introducing your baby to your cat starts well before the baby is born. There are several steps you can take to get your cat used to the idea of a new person in the house.
The key thing to keep in mind is to start getting your cat used to the new reality and routine before baby arrives. That means adapt your house and the room arrangements while you’re still pregnant.
To get your kitty ready for baby, try the following steps when you’re pregnant:
- Designate the baby’s room and make it off limits. If your cat is used to having unlimited access to every room in the house, now is the time to start cutting them off from certain key areas. Try to stop them from sleeping in the nursery right now, to reduce the risk of them trying to share your baby’s bed. If your cat regularly sleeps in your own bed, you may want to consider relocating them to a bed of their own, or a spare room. This is because safer sleeping guidelines state you should sleep in the same room as your baby for the first six months. Removing the cat from the room where baby is sleeping is the best way to ensure your baby’s safety.
- Settle your cat in their own corner of the house. Give your cat their own area of the house where there will be no access for the baby. This gives them somewhere inside to escape if the baby is too noisy, or chasing after them. Make it comfy, and give them a high perch if possible as this will make your cat feel safe.
- Create a separate space for cat’s food, litter and water. Once my kids started crawling, they were always trying to play with the water in the cat’s bowl! Try to put these things in an area where you can keep your baby away from it when they start crawling. This could be in the kitchen, with a stairgate across to stop baby crawling in.
- Keep cats away from baby’s things. Don’t let your cat get used to snoozing in the baby’s crib or pushchair, as they may still try to get into the crib after baby is born.
- Play crying noises. Yep really! A vet once told me she had done this for her cat when she was expecting a baby. The crying could be unsettling for your cat, so get them used to it early by playing short bursts of crying every day.
- Install a cat flap. If you don’t already have one, this could be a good time to introduce one! We survived without a cat flap for around a year, and just let the cats out and back in again whenever they wanted. It was so much easier once they could come and go as they pleased. This way your cat can escape the house if it’s all getting too much, and you won’t have to let them out to use the toilet. I recommend getting a flap that scans their microchip, so that no other neighbourhood cats can come into your home.
After the baby is born, try to keep your cat’s routine similar to how it has always been. Feed them at the same times and keep them to the areas of the house they are used to having. Hopefully during the pregnancy you have stopped them entering the rooms that will be just for the baby when they are born, such as their nursery and their bedroom.
You can also do the following to help your cat get used to the baby:
- Avoid stressful vet trips around the baby’s birth. Make appointments for vaccinations before your due date so that your cat doesn’t have any added stress.
- Give your cat lots of attention when you can. They will be sad they’re not your number one any more, so do lavish them with affection whenever you can. Remember to wash your hands after touching your pet.
How to keep your baby safe with your cat
After your baby is born, you may find that your cat doesn’t want to be around the baby at all! However some cats like to get close and have a sniff of the new creature that has moved into their house!
However your cat is coping, try the following tips to keep your baby safe around your cat:
Wash your hands
After stroking your pet, cleaning their bowls and litter, and feeding them, always washing your hands. This will prevent spread of infection from the cat to your baby. It’s particularly important if you are bottle feeding and need to keep equipment sterile when feeding your little one.
Put your baby to sleep in the same room as you
Safer sleep guidelines state your baby should sleep in the same room as you for the first six months. It’s wise to follow this advice, as statistics show a reduced risk of cot death in babies who do share a room in the first six months. By sleeping in the same room as you, you can also prevent the cat from getting into the cot with your baby, which could be a suffocation or overheating risk for your baby.
Discourage the cat from snoozing in baby’s room or crib
If your cat shows a preference for sleeping in your baby’s bed or elsewhere in the room, discourage it wherever you can. Either keep the door shut or gently evict your cat from the room whenever you find them there.
Keep cat’s claws trimmed
When your baby starts crawling, they may love to chase your cat. Babies don’t understand that cats hate being poked or having their tails pulled! Try to reduce the risk of your cat leaving nasty scratches when they defend themselves by keeping claws trimmed.
Control ticks and fleas
Ticks can spread nasty diseases such as lyme disease. Fleas may infest areas of the house and the bites are extremely itchy and uncomfortable. Remember to keep on top of your cat’s flea, worm and tick medication, which you should be treating them with once a month.
Don’t let baby chase your cat
Once your cat is on the move, teach them it’s not right to chase or bother the cat. Use repetitive, simple sentences, such as “no, leave the cat alone” or “no, we don’t chase the cat”. You’ll be surprised how much they understand by the time they turn one.
Give your cat high perches
Your cat will feel much safer in the house if they are given high places to hide. You can buy special cat perches, which also feature scratching posts, or just designate some areas of shelving for the cat to curl up on.
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