There is no doubt that pets become a part of your family. They are your furry children, make appearances on holiday cards, flood your Instagram stories, and are always there to listen when you need a chat or want to vent. So, it may become a little nerve-racking when your family grows, and you become parents to a tiny human – without fur!
As a first-time mom myself with two of the best rescue kitties, I had a fear of bringing a newborn into our home. Will the cats like him? Will they hiss? Will they scratch? Become jealous? Or spiteful? Will I be able to give them the attention they are accustomed to? Cats are used to routine and can be or become territorial. While my cats never exhibited any territorial tendencies, bringing a newborn into the mix is a complete unknown.
Every cat is different, but preparing for the arrival of your little one and preparing the feline siblings can help ease the transition for all – pawrents included! Here are a few tips and tricks on how to prepare your kitties for their new human sibling.
There are going to be a lot of changes in your home, including an overabundance of new toys, devices, and furniture – many of which your cat will think is for them (don’t be alarmed if they decide to casually lounge in the car seat or stroller.) However, this may also mean relocating some of kitty’s belongings to make room for the new addition. Whistle veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Shines says, “if something needs to change – like the location of the litter box (what was the cat’s room is now the baby’s room), make this change months in advance. Show your kitty where the litter box is now located and keep the door shut to the now nursey so that the kitty gets used to the new arrangement.”
Speaking of litter boxes, when it comes to pregnancy, the litter box is now off-limits, so check that off your chores list. A parasite called toxoplasma can be found in cat feces that can harm the fetus and potentially cause birth defects. Keep in mind, toxoplasma is more common in outdoor kitties that may consume raw meat. The CDC has a wealth of knowledge on the topic, but always consult your doctor with any questions or concerns.
The sheer shrills of newborns are at a decibel level that can startle the average human let alone a kitty. It’s a sound for cats and parents alike to get used to. As pawrents, it’s important to take some time to help our cats adapt and prepare for newborn shrieks, shrills, and cries. Try playing videos or sounds from your phone, tablet, or device of newborns around the house so the kitties can get accustomed to these new noises. This way, when their new baby sibling comes home, they are not startled as they are not hearing these sounds for the first time.
As most kitty parents are aware, they react to scents. The scent of a newborn is going to be very foreign to them and, coming home from the hospital, you’ll smell different too. It’s best if you can get something with the baby’s scent in advance. Have your partner take home a receiving blanket or the little knit cap and place it in an area that your cat will notice to get acquainted with the new scent.
Another option is to buy those little, itty bitty baby socks, put a pair on your fingers and pet your cats with them. Then, have your baby wear them home. When you bring the little one home in the car seat, set the seat on the floor, and let the cats come sniff – they will smell the baby’s little toesies with the socks and immediately smell their scent and realize maybe this tiny little human does belong here!
Another helpful tip from the ASPCA is before you bring the baby into the home, greet your kitties first and spend a few quality, uninterrupted minutes with them. Let them know you are home and give them some attention before the baby and any visitors enter the home.
As you prepare to become parents, there are a few preventative health measures required of you, and the same goes for your kitties. Prior to baby’s arrival, get your furry babies in for a wellness check. According to Dr. Shine, “it’s imperative that your cat is free of internal and external parasites. Make sure to have your cat examined before the arrival of the baby and keep your pet up to date on anti-parasitics recommended by your veterinarian.”
As pawrents, we all envision our little ones to be besties with their fur siblings. It may not happen immediately and may take some time, so be patient. Don’t force your fur babies to be with your newborn. Let them adjust and come to the baby on their own terms. Your cat may be interested in the new addition sooner than you think, which is great, but adult supervision is key. Never leave your cat unsupervised with your baby or child. This is very new to them, and you never know how they may react.
Eventually, there may be some kitty/baby snuggles for the gram that will be oh-so-cute, but it is not recommended that your cat sleep with the baby. Your kitty may think that this new cozy bassinet is their new cat bed too. If they are curious or look like they may hop in for some newborn snuggles, shut the door to the nursery or whichever room the baby is currently sleeping. If you feel this may cause kitty distress, you can try to implement this a few months in advance to set a new routine. Or, place a breathable, protective covering over the baby’s sleep area. Many bassinets will have an optional covering of sorts that will assist in deterring kitties.
Your cats have been your babies since you adopted them, and all of a sudden, you just brought this tiny little human home that is crying and taking all of your attention. Their little kitty worlds have been turned upside down. Try and create comfort and harmony within the home to best ease your cats.
Before welcoming the baby home, place one or multiple Feliway diffusers in the home to help calm your kitties. Having scratching posts and cat trees around the house for the cats to let out some aggression is also helpful. Dr. Shine also recommends “a high hiding perch can also help to keep cat stress levels lower.”
Lastly, as challenging as it may be, make time for your kitties. While baby naps, get in some cat cuddles. Give them some treats sporadically throughout the day and keep their feeding routine on schedule.
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The Ulti-Mutt Guide for Rescue Pets and their Pawsome Pet Parents.