Introducing Cat to Baby: Keep Baby and Cat Safe

Introducing Cat to Baby: Keep Baby and Cat Safe

by Scritch

The anticipation of your first child is an exciting time that includes many milestones, belly photos and tiny socks. Your cat will always be your first “baby” but after your child is born, kitty will often come in second when it comes to your attention. Because your cat’s world is also about to change, she is going to need some help from you to make sure the transition to life with an infant is as smooth as possible. 

Should I be concerned about toxoplasmosis? 

First things first: you have heard (or will soon hear) about toxoplasmosis which is an infection that can be dangerous to an unborn baby. It can be contracted via raw or undercooked meats or from the feces of an infected cat. Cats can become infected with toxoplasma if they come into contact with infected rodents, birds, or undercooked meat. But don’t worry, you don’t have to rehome your cat! By taking the following safety precautions, you and baby will be just fine.

  • Keep your cat indoors; avoid strays and outdoor cats
  • Change the litter box daily: the parasite does not become infectious until 1-5 days after being shed in a cat’s feces
  • Wear disposable gloves and thoroughly wash hands after changing cat litter—alternately, this is a good time to assign cat litter duties to your partner!
  • Don’t feed your cat raw or undercooked meats
  • Wear gloves when gardening or coming into contact with soil that may have been contaminated with cat feces
  • Thoroughly wash all produce grown in said soil
  • If you notice any flu-like symptoms, consult a doctor 

Before baby

Like many of us, cats are most comfortable with routine and predictability. The sudden arrival of a tiny, noisy baby that takes up the time and attention of the adults means less love and affection for the cat, and possibly an erratic feeding schedule. Drastic changes to your cat’s life after the baby arrives, such as being isolated, ignored, or scolded, can cause your cat to become stressed or act out in ways like eliminating outside of the litter box. These next few months leading up to your due date are a good time to start making adjustments to work out the kinks and ease your cat into the upcoming changes. 

Your cat’s life and daily routine

  • Decide on a feeding schedule and stick to it—consider purchasing an automatic feeder to make it easy.
  • If your cat receives lots of regular affection, it’s time to gradually dial back the attention you give your cat.
  • Work with your vet or an animal behavior specialist to iron out any behavioral issues before the baby arrives.
  • Start using baby lotion and baby powder on yourself to introduce these new smells to your cat.
  • Decide on a plan for the big day: who will feed and take care of your cat when you leave for the hospital?

Around the home

  • Set up the nursery and baby items so your cat can get used to the new arrangement.
  • Install a baby gate to keep your cat out of the nursery, or place double stick tape on all baby furniture to keep your cat from making herself comfortable on them.
  • Play recordings of baby sounds each day—start with a lower volume and gradually turn it up. Reward calm behavior with praise and treats, or if your cat is prone to becoming stressed, play a fun game to distract her.
  • Purchase a cat tree or perches so your cat has a high place to “escape” from the baby.

Waiting until the last few weeks to make these adjustments would mean a lot of changes in a short amount of time for your cat, which may cause her a lot of stress. Instead, start early to give her plenty of time to acclimate to the changes. 

After baby

When it’s time to return home with your newest family member, have someone else in the family carry the baby so you can greet your cat alone without interruption. Offer a used baby blanket or onesie to your cat to sniff and get to know the baby’s scent. Next, take a clean pair of baby socks and pet your cat with them to pick up her scent, then put the socks on the baby. When introducing the baby, keep everything low-key. Allow your cat to approach and sniff your baby’s feet with the cat-scented socks. Offer praise if she is well behaved. 

Though your cat may not have ill intentions, she probably enjoys having a warm, cozy spot to sleep. Cats may see a baby as a cuddly source of heat and snuggle up close to the baby’s face, making it difficult for the baby to breathe. Keep your baby protected from your well-meaning feline by closing the door to the nursery during naps, installing a temporary screen door, or using a crib tent. 

Don’t wait until the baby is away in the nursery to offer affection to your cat. Continue to talk to your cat and give her your attention while the baby is around to create a positive association with the baby’s presence. While the baby is feeding, offer treats and scritches or play with your kitty using a laser pointer. 

As they get older, babies start to grab at things and become mobile. Your cat will appreciate having a high perch to which she can escape from getting her tail yanked. For the safety of both, never leave cat and baby alone together without supervision. By continuing to give love to your kitty and make this a positive experience for her, you’ll foster a peaceful home life and a budding friendship between your cat and your child.