Humans can usually tell if a cat is nervous or anxious, happy or content, because we have learned to read their body language and know the signs – but jealousy is more difficult to attribute to a cat’s behaviour. We do know that cat’s don’t like change but prefer routine and predictability, and they love it when things just carry on the same from day to day. But they can often show signs of insecurity if their routine is disrupted.
So when a new baby arrives into the home, it can be very challenging for a cat and they may find it difficult to cope. But luckily this situation is not insurmountable – there are ways you can help.
Recognise stress related signs
New furniture, buggies, cots, as well as new smells and sounds, lots of visitors and a disrupted routine – cats don’t like change, so all of these together can make a cat feel stressed and insecure.
Although your priority will be looking after your new baby, you should also watch out for signs that your cat is not coping with the new arrival.
- Have you noticed that your cat is hiding away for long periods of time?
- Are they spending more time outside (if they have outdoor access) and not coming indoors at their regular time?
- Are they being less tolerant about being handled?
- Or do they seem to be seeking attention more frequently – like staring at you? Or did they get your attention when they knocked something over – they may try this again.
- Have you noticed them overgrooming?
- Has their appetite changed?
- Or are they peeing outside the litter tray?
To avoid getting to this stage, make sure you prepare your cat in good time for the arrival of your new baby.
Prepare your cat for the new arrival
- Make the necessary changes to your home gradually. Introduce new objects, like baby toys, bath, buggies, chairs etc. one at a time. Allow your cat to investigate these in their own time so they can get used to them being around. However, if there are things that you want to keep away from your cat, e.g. the crib where your baby will sleep, make sure these are out of your cat’s reach or in a room where your cat is not allowed.
- Get your cat used to the sounds babies make with sound recordings. This will help when the baby arrives and they won’t be scared of the new noises that come with babies. Start with a low volume and increase it until your cat shows no interest and it will become a normal part of their life.
- Start introducing some baby smells around the house, like baby lotions, so that your cat will accept them when the baby arrives.
- If your baby is born away from home, you can introduce a blanket or muslin that has been close to your baby before your return. Your cat will be able to investigate this new object and get acquainted with the smell before you return.
- Your routine will undoubtedly be affected by the new arrival, so consider asking someone else to take over the responsibility of ensuring the cat’s routine is maintained – that they are fed at the same time, their resources are replenished and the cat litter is changed regularly.
- A cat loves to feel secure, so make sure they can still access their favourite places, like tops of cupboards or shelves – and you may even give them a few extra places to hide, like a cardboard box.
- They also need continued easy access to their other resources – if the location of any of these needs to change, try and do this gradually over time before the baby arrives.
- FELIWAY Optimum provides your cat with enhanced security for 30 days. The message of reassurance it provides will support your cat as they welcome all the changes your new baby brings.
Help your baby and cat live in harmony
When your baby arrives home, your cat may disappear for a while, and then come and investigate on their own terms. Never force them to come close to the baby and never leave them unsupervised together.
Always build on positive associations between your cat and your baby – have rewards to hand so you can reward your cat when they are showing calm and relaxed behaviour around your baby.
Even though your life with a new baby will be hectic, it’s important to continue to spend time with your cat – this can be playing or grooming them, or even just allowing them to sit on your lap when they ask. Or, if you are having some relaxing time with your baby, try playing with your cat at the same time! A fishing rod with a toy mouse to chase, or a laser pointer will keep kitty occupied and they won’t feel excluded.
Cats and babies can live in harmony with a little bit of preparation and patience. However, if you are concerned that your cat is not coping, consult a qualified behaviourist for advice and get your vet to check for any underlying medical issues that you may not have noticed.