My husband and I are so happy for our friends who just brought home their new baby! She’s beautiful and they’re crazy about her, as you can imagine. Their cat, Mr. Tiggs, is having a hard time finding the joy in their new bundle
Bringing home a newborn is stressful on everyone, especially our pets who didn’t exactly sign up for it. Cats particularly can have a hard time if sudden change is a stress trigger for them. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help your cat, even if you’ve already brought home your little one.
Before bringing home baby
If your due date hasn’t arrived (and neither has baby) then you still have time to prepare your cat. You’ll first need to decide how the cat’s current day-to-day will be affected by the newborn newcomer.
If there are going to be off-limits rooms once the baby comes, you’ll need to start training your cat to be extra happy in places they can be. A cat tower, scratching posts, catnip toys, and other things your cat enjoys should be added to those rooms. Praise and rewards should be given when the cat is hanging out in them. Honestly, deterring a cat from a room or place in your house seems almost impossible without the cat turning on you or adding to their stress.
Noise is to be expected when bringing home a baby, so prepare your cat accordingly by recordings of baby sounds (not just crying). Be sure the volume isn’t so high that you give your kitty anxiety before the baby even arrives. During the recordings praise and reward your cat for staying calm. Noise will likely be one of the worst stressors, so this step is very important.
If your cat is particularly nosey, consider swaddling a doll (it’ll be good practice) to carry around and fuss with. After a while, your cat may decide to come check it out and get bored or just ignore you altogether. Either way, it will be nice to not have a cat climbing the curtains to see what you’re carrying.
If baby is already home
If your baby has already come home and your cat is reacting poorly there are some things you can do to help them come around to the situation.
First, you’ll want to keep all interactions between your baby and cat supervised. This will help in avoiding aggressive situations and keep the cat from cuddling a baby who can’t move her own head or roll over. This is also important for rewarding calm behavior around the baby.
Rewarding calm behavior around the baby is crucial. Give your cat opportunities for calm behavior by providing calming distractions, like a perch in a window or a tall cat tree. You should also stock up on treats your cat finds irresistible. Trout LOVES Greenies! Another calming reward your cat might enjoy is a good brushing. Many cats find this soothing and it’s a big part of how cats show affection within their social circles. You should also have super fun toys, shiny, crinkly, and jingly for your cat to enjoy when the baby is around. The other side of the praise and reward coin is to make sure those treats, toys, and catnip are entirely unavailable when the baby isn’t around. This is an important aspect of incentivizing calm behavior.
If your cat is still having a hard time consider a Feliway diffuser. They look like air freshener plugins, but they emit calming pheromones. They are relatively inexpensive and can help make any situation less stressful. As with any anxiety, talk to your vet to be sure that your course of action is the best one for your cat.