Using Google search, I can tell that a lot of women who are cat guardians have a problem with their cat having introduced a baby to the household. Their resident companion animal becomes stressed and demonstrates it through peeing everywhere, becoming depressed and perhaps not eating as before.
The problem originates in how to introduce the resident cat to the new family member, the baby. The answer to the problem lies in taking steps to acclimatise your cat to the baby before the baby enters into the world! When it finally happens the family cat is settled in his mind and will hopefully feel relaxed about the new circumstances. Whatever can be done in advance will pay dividends in the future.
Before baby’s arrival parents prepare a nursery. At this time they should consider the needs of the family cat as well as the baby. The idea is to make the nursery as cat friendly as possible.
Jackson Galaxy refers to them as “scent soakers”. What he means is putting the cat’s bedding and/or a cat tree in the nursery “on the same side of the room as the crib”. This will create a mingling of scents between those of the cat and those of the nursery. This makes the environment more friendly to the cat. As it is more friendly the cat will experience less stress and if he is less stressed he won’t pee on stuff etc..
Feed in nursery
Another tip or trick to de-stress your cat under these new circumstances is to start feeding him or her meals in the nursery.
Climbers and platforms in nursery
Another tip would be to create some vertical climbers and high platforms in the nursery for your cat when you are preparing it for your baby. Jackson Galaxy calls this a “cat superhighway”. It allows the family cat to climb up to a safe space within the nursery and look down at the crib and the new stuff that is going on in the room. He or she can then become acclimatised. The cat will get used to the sounds and the smells of the place including of course the baby from a safe space.
Desensitise to sounds
Another trick would be to desensitise your cat to the sounds and scents of a baby. The technique is to associate the new sounds and scents with something pleasant.
You can get your cat used to the sounds of a baby using a recording. They are widely available apparently. A complication with baby sounds is that they might trigger an alarm response in your cat. This is because they are of a similar pitch to a distress call. All the more reason to desensitise your cat to these sounds.
While the sound of a baby is being played you can feed your cat with her favourite treats or if she prefers to play, engage her with her favourite toy and game. She should be fully engaged such that the sound is not a distraction. At this early stage the sound should be turned down.
In subsequent sessions the volume can be turned up gradually while watching your cat’s response in terms of anxiety or fear. Jackson Galaxy says that there is a fine line between comfort and challenge. The idea is to make your cat feel uncomfortable but to not take her beyond the challenge line where she reacts negatively.
Desensitise to scents
As for scents, you can ask your friends who already have babies to provide you with some blankets or clothing that smell like a baby to which your cat can become accustomed at an early stage. They won’t smell exactly like your baby but they will have that distinctive baby smell.
Give your cat time to explore the smells at his own pace. The aim of all this is to introduce your cat to what will be an entirely new experience so that when it actually happens it is not strange to her.
Positive associations with nursery
Another thing that you can do is to conclude a play session with your cat (which will burn off some energy) by leading her into the nursery for mealtime. This reinforces positive associations with what is, to your cat, a new space. It helps to develop a connection between familiar territory in the house to a new territory thereby making it less concerning to the cat. It will also build into your life a routine that your cat can go with which will help to integrate the baby into the cat’s life.
It would appear that problems can start to happen when a mother, perhaps through exhaustion and desperation, separates the cat from the baby. The cat will respond to this negatively. If a cat is restricted from the nursery they might become more insecure about it. The insecurity may manifest itself in peeing on things or hissing at the child. Then you might lock out your cat whereupon she might start peeing inappropriately more often. You may end up with a broken bond and a failed situation.
Please comment to pass on your experiences
I hope that this helps a little bit. It is based upon my reading around the subject and particularly in reference to Jackson Galaxy’s book Total Cat Mojo. Thank you Mr Galaxy.
Of course, I welcome the input of any mother or father who has gone through the process of integrating their cat with a new baby. Please pass on your experience in a comment.