Cats and Babies

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    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.