Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have three cats — Phebe, Shelby and Bentley. They, along with my Huskies, are my furkids and I love them all to pieces! But I do have a question for you: My husband and I just found out that we are pregnant after many years of trying, and I’m wondering how to prepare the kitties for the new baby. The kitties are very affectionate and sleep with us, if not on us. In fact, Phebe was the first to alert me that something was going right this time — when we were sleeping she laid her paw on my tummy the day I was supposed to take the test and before any tests confirmed anything she knew something was up. The cats have been very close by me since we found out the news, taking naps with me and making sure they are not under my feet like usual and waiting for me to wake up for breakfast instead of waking me up for breakfast. I just want to make the transition from being furkids to being furkids with a human sibling easier on them. Any suggestions? Baby will probably sleep in a bassinette in our room for a few months before transitioning into a nursery.
Siouxsie: Well, first of all, congratulations to you and your husband!
Thomas: We’re all purring with delight that you want to help your get used to having a baby in the house before he or she is born. A lot of people don’t think about that, so we’re very impressed that you are thinking about your furkids — especially in the midst of something as exciting as a long-desired pregnancy.
Bella: And yes, there are things you can do to prepare the cats ahead of time. *purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr*
Siouxsie: First of all, once your baby is born, you’re going to have to spend lots and lots of time taking care of him or her, which means you might not have as much time or energy to spend with the furkids as they’re used to.
Thomas: If one or more of the cats is especially close to you, you might start by encouraging your husband to spend more time with them and hopefully increase their attachment to him. He can start the process by taking over the cat chores, such as feeding and playtime. (We assume he’s already taking care of the litterbox chores, just to be on the safe side and avoid any risk of toxoplasmosis.)
Bella: You should get your cats used to the new sounds, smells and sights of a baby.
Siouxsie: If you have friends with infants, invite them over so your cats can get used to their cries, coos and other assorted cute noises.
Thomas: Make some recordings of baby noises, too. Start by playing them at a very low volume, from the room where your baby will sleep, and gradually raise the volume until the noises reach their normal loudness.
Bella: Bring some baby smells into your environment, too. Get some baby powder and put it on your hands, for example, then let the cats sniff your hands. Once they seem comfortable with the smell, give them some love and petting.
Siouxsie: Bring the baby’s new furniture in as soon as possible so your cats can get used to that. You can train them to avoid hopping into the crib or jumping on the changing table, too. Get some Sticky Paws tape to make the changing table unattractive to her.
Thomas: Another kitty table-top deterrent is easy to make and inexpensive. Simply get a small plastic carpet runner — the kind with little spikes that grip into the carpet — and put it on top of the changing table with the spikes pointing up. Hold it in place with double-sided tape so you can remove it easily once baby comes along.
Bella: You could use upside-down carpet runners in the the crib or bassinette, too, so your kitties won’t want to rest in baby’s bed.
Siouxsie: This isn’t because of those silly old wives’ tales about cats stealing babies’ breath, of course, but because you might prefer your cats not to sleep with baby while he or she is still really small.
Thomas: If you’re going to make the nursery totally off limits to the kitties, you’ll want to get them used to that ahead of time, too.
Bella: Finally, make sure all your kitties have vet visits and are in good health before the baby comes. If they’re not used to having their claws trimmed, you’ll want to train them to accept kitty manicures.
Siouxsie: We’d recommend getting some Feliway diffusers, too. This synthetic “happy cat” pheromone comes in plug-in diffusers and spray, and it’s really helpful for reducing stress.
Thomas: Be ready for your cats to explore other things associated with the baby, too. If you’re planning to nurse your baby, your cats may wonder what that’s about and may even be attracted by the smell of milk on the baby (or on your clothes).
Bella: That’s nothing to worry about. It’s totally normal, and as long as you react firmly but gently when your cats do something you don’t want, everything should be fine.
Siouxsie: Good luck to you, your husband and all your furkids. We hope everything goes well and you have a wonderful, healthy baby — and that your cats will be wonderful teachers for your new family member. Please let us know how things turn out.