Introducing the Cat to the New Baby

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Worried how former feral cat will react to new baby

March 2013

About 2.5 years ago we adopted a 1.5-2+ year old cat from Hopalong Animal Rescue. She's incredibly energetic and playful, with what I imagine to be a colorful past (as evidenced by a chunk missing from one of her ears). It took a very long time before she warmed up to us enough so that we could pet her for any length of time. Even from the start, she would jump up on our laps and seem to want and enjoy being petted, but when she was done, she was DONE. She would bite, scratch and attack, often without any kind of warning.

She's much better now. She's calmed down considerably and enjoys attention. I put her in my lap and pet her in the morning and again when I get home from work, and she likes it. Doing this daily may very well have helped to calm her down. But she still sometimes gets that feral flash in her eyes & will lash out. This is what it is and we've accepted it as part of her personality. She's kind of a lap cat, but only on her terms.

The problem is we're having a baby in Sept. and I'm not sure how she's going to be once the baby is here. I'm worried that she'll attack the baby, whether because she's jealous or flustered or just having a wild moment. But she's part of our family, flaws and all, and I hate even thinking that we'll have to get rid of her. Of course, if it's between the cat and the baby...

Does anyone have any advice about introducing a baby into a home with a rescue cat? Especially a rescue cat who still has a bit of wild left in her? Do you think it would be the same as introducing a baby into a home with any kind of cat? Any advice regarding newborns and cats [rescued or not] would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much. Jen

Hi, You were so great to adopt a rescue cat! It can be challenging at times, I understand. We adopted 2 rescue cats in 2006 and then another 1 in 2009. The last one (the baby) was the meanest-- and I mean that in a loving way. She needs to be the 1st one to eat, doesn't like to be petted unless its on her own terms, etc. We have a 19 month old and its been absolutely fine with her and the cats. We did alot in preparation, though.

We set up the crib and pack n play a month before our daughter's birth, and let all the cats climb in it, smell it, etc. We also gave them their personal space, but it is less than we anticipated because she sleeps with us, as the cats do also.

When our daughter was born, we brought her blanket home first and let the cats all smell it and lie on it as they pleased. Initially, the cats all loved the baby, even our ''mean'' one, but as she has gotten more mobile and verbal, they all run away from her in fear, esp since she was so excited to see them and was loud about it! The smallest ''mean'' one will run away and hide under the bed, most times, but will allow my daughter to pet her occasionally.

I think if you prepare and watch closely, you will be fine. Our cats have never hissed at her but once and have never scratched our daughter. Good luck!! mommy to 3 furbabies and 1 human toddler

We were in the exact same situation, except with two rescue cats and one dog. Here's what we've done, and how the pets are reacting. Our daughter is now three months old.

Our male cat, who seems to be the most like your cat i.e. wants attention when he prefers and only for a certain amount of time, with the ''wild'' ending, was calmly kept at arms length each time he tried his usual ''pet-me'' ritual of rubbing our legs and climbing into our laps on the couch, IF we had the baby with us. He's slowly learned to curl up right next to us or sit on the back of the couch, and wait his turn. Literally, the moment my husband takes the baby from my arms, the cat takes her place. He will sniff her feet.

The female cat, who is less of a lap cat in all ways, seems content to watch the baby from a distance, and only joins us on the couch in the evening when the baby goes down for the night. That's not too far off her old routine, so she's probably been the least affected.

Our very large dog is feeling the most neglected. For the first time in years, he's tried to climb on the couch and bed with us. He loves to curl up near the baby when she's laying on her mats on the floor, and wants to lick her feet and hands, so he acknowledges her place in our little pack, but he's still not quite feeling the love like before. We've made a point of having him sleep in our room on his own bed each night, and he gets attention in the mornings and evenings when the baby is asleep. My husband takes him out to the yard multiple times a day to ''hang out'', play, etc. We're finally getting to a point where taking both the baby and the dog to the dog park is getting easier, and with the weather so nice, it's going to be a weekly trip. K

I have a similar personality cat and had the same concerns, but things have actually worked out fairly well. We birthed at a birth center (partially due to the cat) and recommend that you either birth out of the home or seclude the cat during the labor and birth. When we brought our LO home, the cat was initially disturbed and hid under the bed and howled a bit, but that was the worst reaction he's had. During the first week, we allowed him to get close enough to smell the baby while LO was calm and nursing, but mostly kept him at a good distance after that. If he got curious and started to extend a paw, we wouldn't let him touch the baby (of course). While we were all sitting in bed, if I was holding the baby, my husband made sure to pay positive attention to the cat and vise versa. He figured out that the baby is very important to us, but that she isn't a threat to him or his lifestyle. Now, he is indifferent to her, but does leave the room if she is crying.

I watched him like a hawk any time I wasn't holding the baby until I was certain of his indifference. I also make sure he know that the changing table and crib (which we haven't moved to the nursery yet) is off limits. Of course, you don't want to wait for something to happen first, but I think you can gauge how much of a problem your cat might be. anon

Keeping cats from freaking out when a newborn is brought home

Oct 1999

I am looking for suggestions for preventing cats from freaking out when a newborn is brought home. My two (very spoiled) cats have dealt with visits from friends' babies by disappearing down the block and not coming home until the little visitors are gone. Now that we are expecting our own little bundle of joy and noise, I'm wondering if there are any strategies for introducing cats to their new roommate with a minimum of trauma. thanks!

Well, you suggested yourself what we tried, and what seemed to work (sort of.) We made sure we *introduced* the cats to the baby when she came home. We let them sniff her up and down, and in general the cats kept their distance and were mostly accepting. One of them, however, started urinating in the house in protest (though, to be fair, she did have a bladder infection too.) After my wife and daughter went away for a couple weeks, the cat felt she'd won the battle, and it was never an issue after that.

As our baby grew older, she started wanting to maul the cats. One of them (the pisser) simply ran away. The other refused to give ground, and administered a couple of disciplinary bites. We decided to let the cat discipline the kid. Kid listened to cat more than to us anyway :-< They worked that out, without any damage to either party. It only took two occasions where the cat (quite gently, I might add) bit and made a large fuss for our daughter to get the message. Then we were able to draw our daughter's attention to the fact that cat mauling was a biting offense, and she should think twice about it. In short: Don't worry; they'll work it out.

We had 2 cats age 6 and 5 when our first daughter was born. Our 2nd child was born when they were 9 and 8. To make a very long story short, the cats did not like being displaced by a couple of kids. Our cats got crankier as they aged. Similar to you, they were kings of the house prior to the birth of our daughters. They continued to get a great deal of loving attention from my husband and me and probably too much from the kids. I think the noise level was very disrupting to their pattern of living. They also did not like the roughness of the kids touching them. We lost the older cat to cancer this year and had to put the younger cat to sleep after he continued to bite children, unprovoked, who visited our home.

After mourning our loss and thinking we would never own a cat again, we ended up adopting 2 kittens from the Oakland SPCA in July. It's been a very happy experience for us. As the kittens grow up with our kids they are extremely playful and tolerant of being carried around, having their ears pulled and being petted as only a toddler can. We feel like we've recaptured the joy of owning cats once again.

There is a very good book about cat behavior called 'From the Cat's Point of View' by Gwen Bohnenkamp. It's a paper pamphlet style book that's a quick read and good reference. I ordered mine from Amazon. The book explains the background behind why cats do what they do. Spraying, peeing in the sink, biting, scratching, etc. It gives ideas on how to address the real cause of these very annoying end results. Good luck.

I have four cats, and they felt the same about other people's kids too. But fortunately, it will take awhile for your baby to be able to harass your cats. In the meantime, there are some things you can do, that I did, and seemed to work. I had the baby's room all set up in advance of her arrival, and let the cats hang out in there to get used to it, and to prevent it from being a novelty. By the time the baby came, they weren't so interested in hanging out in there anymore, plus, it was a familiar place/scent. I also took a bit of cloth to the birth in my bag, remembered to get some baby scent on it, and had my husband take it home. Then once home, I encouraged them to snuggle with me when nursing (makes for some cute pictures). Anyway, I did not have a problem. The problem for me is now trying to teach my daughter not to pull on their tails, and to be gentle! Good luck.