Thank you to our guest writer Nomi Berger!
Pregnant and wondering how to break the news to your kitty cat (who was there first?). Contrary to the fear that an addition to your human family may mean the loss of your feline one, there are many paws-itive ways to ease your cat’s stress, to assist her in welcoming the baby, and to ensure she remains an integral part of your soon-to-be expanded household.
If your cat has been the primary focus of your loving attention and affection, minimize her “natural” feelings of displacement by working with her before you bring your newborn home. Since your baby will demand most of your time and energy, accustom your cat to this inevitability by gradually spending less time with her. If she’s especially close to you, have other family members or close friends develop a stronger bond with her. This should reassure and assuage her (consistent praise and plenty of treats are, of course, essential), and prove to her that she is still loved, still safe and still secure.
To provide the smoothest of transitions, begin several months in advance by:
* Bringing your cat to the vet for a routine health exam and any necessary vaccinations.
* Consulting your vet and pediatrician if you’re nervous about the upcoming interactions between kitty and baby. By resolving these issues early, you’ll be putting your mind at ease.
* Seeking help from an animal behavioral specialist if your cat exhibits any unusual fears and anxieties.
* Redirecting all of your kitty’s “quirky” behaviors (from gentle nibbling to pouncing and swatting at you and others) to more appropriate objects.
* Getting your cat used to having her nails trimmed.
* Training your cat to remain calmly on the floor next to you until you invite her onto your lap – a lap that will soon cradle a newborn.
* Holding a “baby” doll to help your cat get used to being close to a real baby.
* Sprinkling baby powder or dabbing baby oil on your skin so that your kitty becomes familiar with these new and, hopefully, pleasant scents.
* Encouraging friends with infants to visit in order to acclimatize your cat to the actual presence of babies.
* Accustoming your cat to baby-related noises and actions by, for example, playing tapes of an infant crying, rocking back and forth in your rocking chair (if you have one) and turning on the mechanical infant swing (if you have one). Make these positive experiences for your kitty by offering her treats and/or playtime.
* Discouraging your cat from jumping up onto the baby’s crib, changing table and other furniture by applying double-sided carpet tape to all readily accessible surfaces.
* Installing a removable gate to keep the baby’s room off limits to your kitty, while still allowing her to see and hear what’s happening inside. This will prevent her from feeling isolated from the family, while growing more comfortable with the many exciting changes taking place.