If you have a cat that you have had for some time and have recently had (or will soon be having) a baby, you likely feel as if you have your hands as full as possible and may well be rather overwhelmed with all of the various baby-related care issues and scenarios that you will now be responsible for!
Many people who are unfamiliar with cats are wary of mixing them with babies due to concerns over the health and safety of the baby, as well as the challenges of managing both a human baby and a furry one! However, while your cat may lose some sleep and possibly want to keep a reasonable distance from the baby when they are crying, there is no reason why cats and babies cannot share a home in harmony with a little careful management-and in this article, we will share some considerations and good advice for how to keep both parties in harmony safely.
When you first bring your new baby home, your cat is likely to react in one of two ways-extreme interest or horrified avoidance! If your baby is crying, your cat will probably very wisely decide to keep a safe distance away, which is fine-you should never try to push your cat into something that is unsettling them-but when your baby is asleep or contented, it is a good idea to make a formal introduction between the two.
Allow your cat to come up and see the baby and sniff it if they wish to, and repeat this process every time it is appropriate and convenient-but keep such interactions low profile and casual, and always ensure that your cat has a route of escape if their fight or flight responses kick in.
Even if your baby and your cat appear to be un-phased by each other and your cat is perfectly happy sitting or sleeping in close quarters to your baby, it is important that you do not leave the two of them alone together before your baby is old enough to stand up.
This is not usually an issue because very young babies are unlikely to be left alone for very long at a time, and never without someone else in the house-but if your cat does decide to snuggle up with the baby in their cot or lie close to them, there is a small but still present risk of smothering, and your baby will not be able to move out of the way.
Contrary to many a popular old wives tales, cats do not pose an inherent risk to the health of babies and pregnant women-providing that pregnant women take care about their health and hygiene protocols in terms of cleaning out the litter tray and avoiding contact with faeces.
However, it is important to take good care with basic hygiene where cats and babies are concerned, as the immune systems of babies are of course not as well developed and hardy to threats as those of adults.
This means that you should always of course wash your hands between cleaning out the litter tray and handling your baby, and also try to make sure that shed cat fur around the house is cleaned up promptly, and that your cat isn’t allowed to lick your baby’s face or otherwise potentially run the risk of passing on bacteria or toxins.
Additionally, if your cat feels threatened, trapped, unsettled or backed into a corner, they might lash out and hurt your baby-or at least scare and upset them, which is not the best start to life with a cat!
If your cat appears to be staring at your baby in close quarters or is showing signs of irritation, such as flattened ears, a swishing tail or a warning growl, remove your baby from your cat’s reach!
Also, bear in mind that an awful lot of toys that your baby will have-such as furry teddies, a ceiling mobile and balls and interactive games-will also potentially appeal to your cat, so keep an eye out for your cat planning a leap or pounce onto your baby’s bed or basket to swipe at a hanging toy or the corner of a blanket!
Finally, while managing a baby and a cat together might seem like the most challenging thing in the world until you get to grips with things, the toddler phase when your baby starts crawling and walking will really kick things up a gear!
A mobile small child is apt to be harder to keep an eye on, and will be more interested in the cat once they can propel themselves towards it too-so start to teach your child about how to treat the cat and stay safe around them, and keep an eye on things, when your baby begins to crawl!