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Bringing Baby home: Introducing your cat to your new family member

Coming home with your new baby is an exciting experience, but it can also be a time of significant change for everyone involved, including your furry family members. For many cat owners, one of the biggest concerns is how to ensure a smooth and stress free introduction between their kitties, and the newest addition to the family. 

Unfortunately, we get a lot of requests to rehome cats after the arrival of a baby. We would like to think that with the right preparation and advice, a smooth transition to integrating a baby into your cat’s life is possible.

Note: Advice here is anecdotal from our volunteers and is based mainly on their research and experience. Please make sure you speak with your vet ahead of the birth for their suggestions as our volunteers did. Every cat is different and will need something different.

How do I Prepare My Cat for the New Baby?

Just as you’re readying your space for your little one’s arrival, you will need to think about preparing the space for your kitty too. Cats are creatures of habit, and this means that they can become stressed, or anxious when faced with significant changes in their environment. Bringing a new baby home means there will be new sounds, smells, and routine changes which can make your cat feel uneasy. 

Taking the time to prepare your cat for these changes can help them to adjust, reduce their stress, and prevent any potential changes in their behaviour. 

Managing Stress

To help manage your cat’s stress, consider getting a Feliway wall plug in. These can be used around the house and in rooms with the baby’s things. They work with your cat’s pheromones and help signal them to relax and feel calm. Additionally, try implementing calming cat treats such as Beaphar, calming cat food, or Zylkene supplements is ideal for cats in a changing environment.

Familiarise Baby Items

As you begin to set up baby furniture and toys around your home, such as a high chair, toys, or changing table, allow your cat to see and smell these new objects. Allowing them to explore these items will help them to become familiar, reducing anxiety and stress.

Gradual Sensory Introduction

Play recordings of baby noises at low volumes and gradually increase the volume over time to help your cat get used to new sounds. To help your cat become familiar with the new smells, start using some of the baby’s products at home before their arrival to help introduce your cat to the new scents. This can be smells such as baby shampoo, baby powder, baby milk etc.

Slowly Adjust Routine

Begin to gradually adjust your cat’s feeding times and play schedules to align with the new routine you anticipate having once the baby is home.

Practice Handling

If your cat isn’t used to being handled, gradually increase their willingness by gently touching their paws, tail, and belly to prepare them for interactions they might have with the baby.

Set Boundaries

If you have off-limit areas for your cat such as the nursery, these should be established and enforced early on to allow your cat to adapt to these new rules. As part of safe sleep recommendations, it is not advised that your cat sleep with your baby in the first year of life as cat’s fur could smother an infant. If your cat has a tendency to jump in the cot and you're worried about this issue, you might consider buying some cat safety nets to go over a buggy, cot, or bassinet.

Positive Reinforcement

Reward your cat with treats and affection when they show calm behaviour around baby-related items, or when adapting to changes well.

Create a Safe Space

Make sure your cat has a comfortable, quiet, and familiar area where your cat can retreat to if they feel overwhelmed by the new activity and noise. Cat behavioural expert Jackson Galaxy recommends your cat has its “base camp”, the area where your cat feels safe and comfortable with the things that smell familiar. Using space vertically here is helpful, as your cat may love to relax on top of the bookshelf out of the reach of a baby while still being in the same room as everyone. We want to promote your cat being with your family rather than cave dwelling to get some peace. 

You might find this video useful when preparing your cat: 

How do I Introduce My Cat and Baby?

Once your baby is born, consider keeping something of theirs and introducing that item to your cat first. A good idea is to bring the baby’s first hat from the hospital for the cats to smell before the baby comes home. Give your cat a treat as they smell this new object that’s scent soaked with the new baby. It is important to introduce scent first and visually after. You might also take an object that has your cat's scent on it, such as a towel or blanket, and wrap the baby in it to let your cat know that the baby is familiar. 

When it comes to the physical introduction, you should choose a quiet room that your cat doesn’t typically use for sleeping or eating. Introducing a baby in your cat's most used rooms could cause your cat to feel intruded on, leading to anxiety, stress, or even behavioural issues. By choosing a neutral space, you create a calm environment where your cat can approach the baby without feeling threatened.

Holding your baby in your arms, allow your cat to begin the process by simply looking from a distance. Observation from afar will help to minimise any stress that your cat may be feeling, and helps to ensure a smooth and comfortable introduction for everyone involved. Cats are naturally cautious, and need to be allowed the time to assess new situations. By allowing your cat this assessment time, you’re giving them the chance to familiarise themselves with the baby’s presence, sounds, smells, and movements from a safe distance, and at their own pace. This slow approach will help to prevent your cat from feeling overwhelmed, threatened, or uncomfortable.

When your cat is feeling ready, they will come over slowly and with caution. Typically, a cat will show curious behaviour by sniffing at the air, moving closer one step at a time, and circling around to get a sense of the new presence. By approaching at their own pace, your cat will be able to manage their stress and build confidence, which ultimately leads to a more positive introduction. Be sure to create a positive association with the baby. When your cat scopes out the baby in a gentle and curious way, give them a treat to reinforce good behaviour in a positive way.

Allowing Time for Your Cat

Even after introducing your cat to your baby, it’s important to continue giving your cat enough attention, affection, and playtime. As cats thrive on routine and human interaction, being overlooked can lead to feelings of insecurity and pent up energy which can cause some behavioural issues.

Maintaining your cat's routine, including play sessions and verbal praise will help to reassure your cat that they’re still an important part of the family. Watch the video below for guidance on keeping your cat mentally and physically stimulated:

What Happens if My Cat Doesn’t Adjust to the Baby?

In the situation that your cat doesn’t adjust to the new baby despite best efforts, it’s important to explore various options to ensure the well-being of your cat, as well as your baby.

Consult With Your Vet

If your cat's behaviour suddenly changes, or your cat appears aggressive, agitated, or stressed, seek professional advice from your vet, or a behavioural specialist. They will be able to assess the situation, rule out the possibility of underlying health issues, and help you to move forward with personalised guidance and support.

Start the Process over

If the initial introduction was rushed or progressed too quickly for your cat, consider starting over with a slower and more gradual approach. Be sure to let your cat acclimate at their own pace. Never force your cat to approach your baby.

Enrichment and Distraction

Provide your cat with interactive toys and environmental enrichment. This will help to keep them mentally stimulated, providing an outlet for any pent-up energy or frustrations.

Before making the difficult decision to rehome a cat, we can only urge you to feel confident that you have done everything possible to create interspecies harmony in the home. Make sure to look for help as soon as the issues start to show before it gets worse.

To ensure a smooth process, consider contacting a behaviourist before the baby comes in preparation. We highly recommend Kim Houston Please keep in mind that you will need to discard medical issues and get a referral from your vet beforehand.

Rehoming Your Cat

If you have tried the above and feel like your cat is no longer happy with the environment, and are sure that rehoming is the right step, please try this service (Charity number: 1189284).

They are able to do interviews and home checks. However, you will have to keep the cat for 4-6 weeks minimum as they don't count with emergency rehoming, you can find more information here

If it becomes urgent, you can contact rescues. Please keep in mind that we are a small cat rescue charity so are unable to offer emergency services. You can find a list of charities on Cat Chat



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