Any cat owner who has recently become a new parent will tell you that the advice they receive the most is to keep their cat and baby apart. I lost count of how many times I was told “cats steal a baby’s breath”, a claim which seems to come from an urban legend.
As dramatic as that statement is, it is crucial to protect your baby and cat from each other.
Here's some tips to help your new baby and your cat grow into best buds, peacefully and safely.
Keep some Spaces out of Bounds
If your cat is used to having free reign of the house, this might be a tough adjustment, so it’s worth setting new boundaries before your baby arrives.
Cats stealing a baby's breath refers to a cat sleeping on the baby, blocking their airways. It sounds far-fetched, but it is not worth taking the risk. You should keep your kitty out of your baby's sleeping space, and your baby's cot should definitely be a strictly cat-free zone. This might mean that the new nursery is off-limits or that you can no longer allow kitty to sleep by your side.
As any cat owner can attest, cats sleep where they want, especially if it's comfortable and warm. It can be hard to keep cats out – just watch them vault over the baby gate – so you need to be consistent with setting boundaries. Or just close the door!
Keep an eye on the pram as well, as it can also be a popular spot for cats to snooze in.
Once your baby becomes a mobile toddler, it’s essential that your cat has their own space where they can’t be reached. Every cat sometimes needs some peace and quiet.
Having the litter tray out of reach of your baby is important for hygiene reasons and keeps this space private for your cat.
Installing a baby gate will block access and ensure that tiny hands can't reach the litter tray. The last thing you want is your baby digging about in there. For a cat to keep using their litter tray, they need to feel secure and comfortable, so if you notice your cat is avoiding it, make sure it's in a quiet and inaccessible spot.
Enclosed litter trays, where your cat enters from the top, are a great idea. If you're not already using a non-toxic natural cat litter, this might be a good time to start.
Monitor their Interactions
Cats all have individual temperaments, but even the most chill of felines will lash out if they feel threatened. Babies are understandably not great at knowing boundaries and won’t understand why kitty isn’t thrilled about having a tiny human invade their personal space.
Equally, cats are curious creatures, so they might be tempted to get up close to the baby. Even if your cat wouldn’t hurt a fly, it’s important to not leave your cat alone with the baby, especially in the early days. Jealousy isn’t uncommon when a new member of the family enters the fray, and your cat might feel a bit put out.
You want your cat’s interactions with the baby to be positive, so it’s important you’re there to keep an eye on things.
Provide Stimulation for your Cat
Setting aside time to play with your cat will show them they haven’t been forgotten. It’s also a great way for them to burn off some energy and can be a stressbuster for you too. Interactive toys are a good idea to keep them occupied, and a cat tree will provide a safe haven for them to escape if needed.