My cat is stressed by my new baby. Advice please.

“My cat is jealous of my new baby”, is quite a common statement on the internet. Is it jealousy? Or is it a territorial thing? Or both, and more besides.

This is a real situation and one we read about on the internet not infrequently. Some mums (moms) give up their cats when they have a new baby but that is unnecessary. However, it seems that some cats relate to the new family member as an unwelcome intruder onto their home range (the cat’s territory, which is the house and perhaps back yard etc.) and also, perhaps, as an interloper breaking up a stable family unit and existing relationships.

Baby and Cat
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Baby and Cat

A visitor, Jasmin, made a comment, yesterday on this tricky topic….

I have a cat that has been living with me for almost 7 years. Her name is Baby and she has been spayed.

She sleeps with me every night ever since we adopted her from an animal shelter.

Ever since our daughter, Leah came into our lives last September, Baby has been showing signs of jealousy towards our girl.

The latest incident happened on 01-24-13 at about dinner time. Baby turned around instead of joining us for dinner (my wife, daughter, another cat named Sophie & myself). We didn’t see Baby at all during the entire time we had dinner.

What happened was Baby went into my daughter’s room and defecated in one corner of the room.

Baby has previously smacked Leah on her head and cheeks. She has even lured my daughter into giving her a kiss and then smacked her on her head.

Baby has hissed many times at Leah even though both of them have played together nicely as well and giving each other kisses.

How can I stop Baby’s behaviour or is she just plain jealous of my daughter?

I answered the question as best I could but I would love it if one or two people could assist in finding a neat solution, if there is one. My personal view is that there is no neat solution.

The problem is about the individual character of each cat. Some cats won’t mind so much and some cats will be upset and stressed. Defecating in the corner of a room is scent marking and a sign of stress due to territorial issues.

In summary, my suggestion was (a) that Jasmin spent more time with her cat to try and offset the stress and (b) allowing more time to adapt and adjust to the new family member, which applies to all the family.

I also believe that for some cats no amount of time can resolve the problem. It may be partially resolved but for some individual cats life is never as good again. It can be hard as well, to tell if a cat is stressed or discontent. Not all cats will pee on the bed or whatever as a sign of distress.

In the wild, cats fight over territory. One cat wins. He has his territory. It is not shared. In the wild cat world of the big cats a male cat will have female territories within his extended range.

Feral cats choose their associates (friends). The introduction of a baby is rather like the introduction of a new cat into a household where there are existing cats.  There is no automatic acceptance of the new cat by the existing cats. Cats do have preferences and ideas on who they like as an associate.

Returning to the case in point, there may be other factors that are causing the cat to be stressed and it would be wise, I feel, to check all the possibilities as well the central issue: the introduction of a new “cat” (the baby girl Leah) into the household.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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11 Responses

  1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    lol yes the PoC army would sort anything out between us

  2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    The trouble is with these problems we don’t always know the full story, some people don’t think to mention that a cat is declawed because they think it’s just a routine thing they had done to them. A vet sold them it with neutering and that’s it, they’ve no idea it can cause the cat problems and pain at any time in the future. At 7 years old Baby could easily be suffering in silence which would make her even more unhappy about the new baby ‘playing’ with her.
    It can make a difference to how to look at a problem if we know if a cat is declawed or not.
    Baby may or may not be, we just don’t know, it was just the way the father said smacked made me wonder because although you are right that a cat may be careful with her claws around a baby it seems unlikely that one upset enough to walk away from the family and defecate in the baby’s room would be.

    • Michael says:

      I agree, there is a lot going on inside a cat’s head that we are not sure about and don’t know about. And it might be that “Baby” is just playing, pocking and prodding as in play. That is not an act of jealousy or upset. Although Baby has hissed at Leah. Hissing indicates fear really and a cat being in defensive/aggressive mode. But the hissing may be a response to Leah being too rough and mishandling Baby. As you say we don’t have the hard details. I think, the ideal would be for us all to go in to the home and be army of cat behavior consultants 😉 We’d sort the problem out wouldn’t we…

  3. Rose says:

    Not much I can add but I too wonder if Baby is declawed,some ignorant people in America think it makes cats safer around children.
    Such a stupid idea and if the poor cat is declawed and Leah continues to “play” with her the chances are she will get bitten and the cat lose her home.
    Anyway it’s the parents the problem,not the cat,they obviously didn’t put much thought into how their cats would react to a human baby.

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Rose. It is good point. Declawing affects behavior and the mentality of the cat.

      • Marc says:

        I’m still not assuming she is declawed though. Cats are careful with their claws and especially with something like a baby. They know not to scratch the baby. I’d give this familly a head start for caring so much about the cat and asking. Clearly they are close. Some cats don’t bother to have dinner with the familly in the first place so it comes from a place of great love I think. In my opinion the complaint should be that they had a baby 🙂

  4. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    The cat’s name Baby says it all, as like to so many other parents the cat is the baby until the ‘real’ baby comes along. The other cat Sophie is obviously the more laid back and accepting sort as some cats are.
    The father says:
    ‘Baby has previously smacked Leah on her head and cheeks. She has even lured my daughter into giving her a kiss and then smacked her on her head’
    Cats don’t lure, this chap is casting the poor cat as some sort of villain! Is the cat declawed? Smacked Leah, not scratched her, makes me think she may be and if so she will be feeling vulnerable to this small noisy grabbing human creature.
    Baby’s defecating in Leah’s bedroom is a clear sign she is jealous, the father saying that Leah and Baby sometimes play nicely together is deluded! Small babies don’t play nice, they screech and grab and suck and Leah has more than likely hurt Baby by doing this. Babies and cats should be kept apart, never left without supervision until the child is old enough to learn how to treat cats gently. Cats are not toys.
    Baby needs lots of love and fuss and attention, when Leah is asleep she needs the parents to play with her, to make her feel important, because at present she feels pushed out.
    They must not forget Sophie either, both cats should be made to feel special and both cats need a high up sanctuary each to escape to, such as boxes on top of wardrobes, where they feel safe and can snooze in peace.
    With time and patience and kindness this little family can live happily together and Leah will grow up sensitive to the needs of cats.

    • Michael says:

      I think you make a very good point that I missed. Babies can provoke a reaction in a cat. In other words Leah may have inadvertently provoked Baby into slapping her by playing too rough etc.

      That means that Jasmin should supervise interactions between Leah and Baby to check why Baby..

      “Baby has previously smacked Leah on her head and cheeks”.

      This might not be Baby being aggressive in defending territory or being jealous but simply reacting to inappropriate behavior from Leah.

      Thanks for that idea Ruth. Like you, I think time and excellent management of cat and child by Jasmin will resolve this difficulty to a satisfactory level.

    • Marc says:

      I agree – great response. I know zilch about babies but Ruth sounds right about the way babies ‘play’. Personally I don’t like babies (sorry, I know it’s an awful thing to say) and would never subject any cat to babies or children. I’m like cats, I don’t like loud noises and such – I get nervous around it, dogs barking etc so I think I have an idea how cats feel.

      To be honest I think cats are no less important than people and I pretty much say this: Until cats are not being killed by the millions in shelters and the planet is no longer on the edge of being consumed I will not go near the idea of having children. I would rather open my home to living beings who already exist on this planet and who need a place to live happily. I cannot in all honesty justify the so called human ‘right’ to have children. I think we lost that a long time ago. I’m horrible I know but it’s honestly how I feel.

      Having said that I agree with Ruth about managing cats and children very carefully. Perhaps she slapped Leah without her claws. Cats know very well when not to use their claws so I wouldn’t assume her to be declawed. My cats are very good with theirs. This familly clearly love their cats dearly (hence the name Baby) and I really hope they can work it out with Baby so she feels better. I appreciate that they are asking how to solve the problem and that they really love their cats – they are so much better than many other people in the same situation and I wish them really the best of luck sorting it out.

  5. Marc says:

    Perhaps it will get better as the Leah gets a bit older and doesn’t need as much attention for everything. It sounds like they are capable of getting along but sometimes Baby lashes out. I feel sorry for Baby in this situation, which is an unavoidable one. I would say the newness and marked change of the way of things in the house will wear off and she will become more calm about the situation. Obviously a lot of attention for Baby is important to make her feel better and definitely play with her because she will run off some energy and naturally feel alot calmer from that anyway. It’s a hard situation and as Michael says, it has no clear solution but I do think that if Baby is already able to play with Leah at certain times then it’s certain;y far from being all bad. Leah probably;y requires a ton of attention, human babies are unable to anything for themselves so that’s hard for Baby but that level of attention will change and Baby will also get used to it. It will probably involve compromise in that it will take Baby some time to be real happy again as before but that is life and we work with what we’ve got. I’d not even consider taking Baby out of the equation. That’s far worse and the other cat might suffer from that too.

    • Michael says:

      I agree there is progress towards Baby adapting to the new order of things so on that basis more progress might be made in the future. That probably is the key. But as you suggest, I have a feeling that life for Baby won’t be the same again.

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