If you’re a cat mom and expecting a tiny human, you might have grand dreams of having your baby and your cats being best friends. You know, like those cute videos on YouTube. Truth is, the reality is always different from the expectation.
I post a lot of photos and videos on IG showing my newborn interacting with our three cats. Some pet lovers have DM’d me asking about how I did it–how did I introduce my cats to my baby?
To be honest, my cats aren’t best friends with the baby. Not yet. They’re getting there, slowly sniffing each other and testing each other’s boundaries. Sometimes, the cats let the baby paw on them, other times they close their eyes and turn away. Sometimes, the baby lets the cats brush their tails against him, other times he acts indifferent and totally ignores their meows. But they’re getting there.
Sharing with you how my husband and I are taking steps to make sure our new baby grows up to love our OG babies–our three cats!
Start while the baby is still in the womb.
When I was still pregnant, I didn’t shoo away the cats in fear of catching a parasite or toxoplasmosis. I let them burrow in my tummy, and even sleep with us when they wanted to. The only thing I stopped doing was clean their litter box–ask your husband to do that!
I think this prepared them for the coming changes. When we were setting up the baby’s things and cribs, we allowed them to inspect every new item and even sleep in the crib!
If you’re really paranoid about toxoplasmosis, ask your OB-Gyne about taking a test to make sure. I told my doctor I had three cats, and she didn’t seem too alarmed about it. Of course, we made sure the cats were clean, they were well-fed, they were kept indoors (most of the time), and they were up-to-date with their shots.
Don’t change their routine.
Once the baby came, we made sure that the cats are still fed at the same time they were always fed, with the same food they loved to eat. We made sure to keep their favorite spots unoccupied, so they can retreat whenever they wanted to.
Cats are creatures of habit and the one thing they hate most is change. A new member of the family (and a constantly crying one!) is a big change, and it’s bound to cause them stress. Don’t add more stress by changing their other routines.
“Observe more, do less.”
This is a parenting principle by Magda Gerber, but really, it also applies to pet-parenting. Just let your cats be cats, let your baby be a baby, and let nature do its job.
The first thing we did upon coming home from the hospital was to lay down the baby’s carrier on the floor so the cats could sniff the baby right away. We let them greet the baby, or not if they didn’t want to. After a few curious sniffs, they lost interest and moved away. We just let them.
During the first month, the cats seemed really bothered by this tiny stranger. They weren’t sure what it was–was it a tiny human, a deformed cat, or a monster? The baby was crying all the time, and they hated it. We just let them.
It took another two months before the cats got used to the baby’s cries. One day, I just saw them make the first friendly moves towards the baby. At first, it was a tiny sniff, and then it was a head bonk on the baby’s bouncer, and later on, I saw one of them propping himself on the baby’s feet, belly up.
The baby himself wasn’t aware of the cats’ existence until he was four months, when his vision was already more developed. He started looking at the cats’ direction, giving them shy smiles, and then loud giggles. Now that he could grab things, he’s beginning to reach out and touch them.
Know your cats.
You can only “observe more, do less” if you know your cats well. Note their personalities and act appropriately. We have three cats–Cato, the alpha male who is bossy, snobby, and clingy; Boogie, the super chill and relaxed one, and Ginger, our fat girl who’s a little loopy.
We know Cato would not show affection for the baby at once. He’s alpha, and he thinks he’s claimed me so he’s the most jealous one. Until now, he rarely goes to the baby and barely gives him glances. We don’t leave the baby alone with Cato, because Cato has the tendency to step humans when we’re sleeping. But he doesn’t snarl and he doesn’t bite, so we allow the baby to pat him under our supervision.
Boogie is a gentle giant, and we always knew he’d be best friends with the baby. He’s claimed the baby’s bouncer and always stays in the room with him.
Ginger is super sweet, but she turns into a psycho b**ch when triggered. Problem is, we don’t know what triggers her; it can be anything and nothing! She hisses and claws in such speed, too! So we never let the baby get near her unsupervised.
Our cats’ shots are up-to-date, and we regularly give them baths and anti-flea drops. We trim their nails weekly, except for Ginger who turns feral. They mostly stay indoors and only go out on our patio for short excursions.
It’s always best to consult your pediatrician and vet when it comes to your pets and baby. But in the end, trust your instincts. You are their mom, after all. <3