How to prepare your cat for a baby
Preparing for a baby can take time. As much as you and your family will begin getting ready, you'll also need to prepare your cat for your new arrival.
In most cases cats will adapt to a baby well, but make sure you forward plan to get your cat used to any change in advance.
Start making preparations four months in advance of your due date – do not leave it until your baby has arrived.
If you're nearing your due date, check out our advice on how to introduce your cat to your baby.
Get your cat used to baby sounds
To help prepare your cat for the sounds that babies make:
- play recordings of a baby crying, gurgling and screaming for short periods during the day. These can be found on YouTube.
- initially, the sound should be barely audible
- increase the volume gradually as your cat grows used to the noises
It’s important that your cat feels calm and relaxed with the sounds before you increase the volume, so remember to take this slowly.
Get your cat used to baby smells and objects
A cat’s primary sense is smell, so new products and objects brought into the house can be a particularly challenging time for them.
Get your cat used to the following by using them in the months leading up to your baby's arrival:
- Baby powder
- Baby milk
Introduce one at a time, if possible, and put some of the new products on your own skin. This way the new smells can mingle with a familiar 'safe' smell.
Never force your cat to smell products though as this could make them more worried.
If you're redecorating a spare room to become your baby's room, cats can find the new smells unsettling. You may find that your cat starts spraying around the house. Learn how to manage this with our advice on how to stop your cat spraying.
The following object need to be in place before your baby arrives:
- Changing mats
To make the new objects smell more familiar (and therefore less threatening):
- use a Feliway spray on any new baby items
- install a Feliway diffuser (available from your vet)
Feliway is a synthetic version of the facial pheromones produced by the glands on your cat’s face. This can help your cat feel more secure during this potentially stressful time.
Start feeding your cat off the ground
When your baby begins to toddle and explore, cat food may prove an irresistible attraction. So, get your cat used to eating in an area, preferably off the ground, where your child won’t be able to reach.
We appreciate that some owners won't want this or that some older cats may not be able to reach. In this instance, it's best to start feeding them in a quieter room that your baby will not have access to.
Prepare a quiet place to go
You are likely to have lots of visitors when your new baby arrives. Some sociable cats may enjoy the extra attention. Others may become overwhelmed if it is something they are not used to.
Cats should always have a quiet, safe place to go whenever they need to rest or retreat from visitors. This will be especially important to them once your baby arrives and eventually begins to toddle about.
Scratching post or high shelf
Cats prefer high, dark, secluded places that have a good view of the household activities. A tall scratching post with extra tiers or a high shelf is ideal for this. From this vantage point your cat will be able to get used to what’s going on at a safe distance.
Encourage your cat to use these areas by placing a few tasty treats and bedding on them.
If your cat is on the nervous side, it’s a good idea to ask your visitors to ignore your cat when they are in their “safe” place.
Cats often like to make use of spare rooms for some peace and quiet. But the spare room, where your cat usually has free access, may become a nursery. Gradually encourage your cat to sleep in other areas and then keep the nursery door closed. Make this and other changes well in advance so your cat does not associate the change with your baby's arrival.
Separate baby and cat toys
Cat toys and baby toys are often made of similar materials. Some toys even make the same kind of noise, such as a squeak or rattle. So it’s not surprising that babies will pick up and chew cat toys.
Tidy your cat's toys away, but remember to bring them out and play with your cat throughout the day.
Play with toys, not hands
Even if your cat is gentle when playing, it’s always best to use toys instead. You don’t want your cat to favour fingers or hands, especially when your baby arrives.
Does your pet have any behavioural problems? If so, this can sometimes get worse when big changes happen. We suggest getting in touch with a behaviourist who can help you.
Get a vet check
Make sure that your cat is in good physical health and is free from fleas and worms.
Any pain or irritation that a cat is feeling will lower their tolerance to the changes that are about to happen. This may lead to spraying or other behaviour issues.