cats and babies

photo by JayGirlsMom

A purrrfect pair

There are lots of old wives tales about cats and babies: "A cat will suck the breath from a sleeping baby," "If a cat hears the baby crying, he'll think it's another cat in the house and attack it," and "If a cat smells milk on a baby's breath, he'll lick the baby's mouth and smother it."

They kind of make you wary of having a cat don't they? Not to worry. According to Kat Miller, a behaviorist with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, cats and babies can co-exist peacefully.

"Cats are creatures of habit, they prefer consistency," says Miller. "Any abrupt change in their life can cause anxiety and fear."

Here's what she recommends you do to keep the peace between your cat and your baby:

1. Set up the baby's furniture ahead of time to help ease the transition when the baby arrives. If this means a new spot for the litter box, be sure to place it where the cat won’t be disturbed when using it. Otherwise he may decide to do his business elsewhere.

2. Get your cat used to baby sounds and smells.
Play a recording regularly and using baby lotions on yourself and let the cat sniff them.

3. Learn how to trim your cat's nails regularly (ask your vet to show you). You might also consider a product called Soft Claws — soft caps that are glued to a cat’s claws.

4. Create a new routine for the cat. Think about changes in routine that the new baby will bring, and try to gradually transition to that schedule for the cat’s feeding, play and cuddling time.

5. Supervise the cat whenever it is near the baby. The simplest way to keep a cat away from a sleeping baby is to keep the door closed, and there are devices called crib tents and scat mats that discourage cats from climbing into cribs. If the cat is attracted to the crib, consider adding perches like high cat trees to other parts of the house.

6. Lay down the law.
Make sure the cat knows what’s allowed, not just what is forbidden. For example, if you don’t want him in the crib or on your lap when you’re nursing, put a treat in a nearby perch or cat bed to give him a place where he can go and still be in your company.

7. Never hold the cat still to meet a baby.

8. Don't panic if the cat goes near the baby. That will teach the animal that the baby causes upsetting things to happen. Allow the cat to observe and approach at his own pace. If his tail’s up (not wagging, which, unlike in dogs, is a sign of agitation) and his ears are pricked up, he’s relaxed and interested.

Do you have a cat? How does it get along with your baby?