Bringing home a new baby is such a joyful and exciting time! But when you’re a cat owner, it can also be stressful for you and your cat. You’re naturally worried about your baby’s safety. Cats play rough; those claws can come out anytime, even during cuddles! They’re pretty unpredictable, too. There’s no way to predict if your cat will be a gentle, loving companion to your little one or if they’ll freak out and start scratching.
But you love your cat. You probably dream of your cat and baby becoming the cutest best friends. If you’re wondering whether your cat and newborn can interact safely, the answer is yes, but it takes a little extra effort.
The Arrival of a Newborn Can Be Stressful for Cats
Cats thrive on routine. They feel safest and happiest when they know what to expect each day. Imagine how confusing and upsetting it must be for your cat when a tiny intruder suddenly arrives in their home. Worse, this strange creature won’t stop crying, screaming, and hogging all the attention!
Not only that but welcoming a newborn into your life is a busy time. Visitors are always coming and going, the house gets reorganized, and your daily routine gets completely thrown off. It’s no wonder cats can start acting out during this period; it’s the only way they can communicate that they’re feeling overwhelmed and scared.
Understanding how your cat feels during this time will help you approach the matter with a level head. As a new parent, you’re also overwhelmed, and it’s easy to assume that your cat is just being naughty when they’re terrified and confused. The bottom line is that you need to be just as patient with your cat as your baby.
The good news? With preparation and a few simple steps, you can help your cat and baby live together in harmony from day one.
How to Introduce Your Newborn to Your Cat in 6 Steps
1. Prepare Your Cat Ahead of Time
The earlier, the better. The idea is to desensitize your cat to the things that will become a part of their life once the baby comes.
For instance, let them smell the baby’s lotions, powder, diapers, and other products. Also, encourage them to explore the nursery, but keep an eye on them, so they don’t get too mischievous. If any of your baby stuff plays music and sounds, let your cat explore those as well.
Consider playing audio recordings of baby noises daily, such as crying, screaming, and giggling. This way, the sounds start becoming a natural part of your cat’s environment. Toss them treats while they’re listening, so they start associating the sounds with positive experiences.
2. Slowly Adjust Your Cat’s Routine
Has mom always been the primary caregiver for your kitty? Are they used to getting cuddles at certain times of the day? How about their feeding routine?
If any of these will change after the newborn arrives, it’s best to start slowly adapting your cat to the new routine.
For instance, if a dad, a sibling, or another family member will replace mom for kitty duties, start having them spend more time with your cat a couple of weeks (or even months) before the baby arrives. Gradually have them take over more and more of the caregiving duties until your cat is ultimately used to them as their primary caregiver.
3. Create More Quiet Spaces for Your Cat
A cornered cat is an unhappy and potentially dangerous cat. To prevent forcing your cat into any situation where it feels trapped (e.g., when there are too many visitors around), designate several “safe spots” in the house where your cat can retreat and escape the hustle and bustle of life with a newborn.
These spaces should be away from high-traffic rooms such as the nursery. Make sure they’re well-ventilated, peaceful, and filled with everything your cat needs: food, water, bedding materials, toys, and scratching posts.
We also recommend adding more cat caves and climbing trees around the house. This way, your cat can explore and watch over the household from a height without coming down and feeling intimidated or scared.
4. Separate Baby and Cat for the First Few Days
In your cat’s eyes, your newborn is no different from a new kitten or puppy. So why not try the same approach?
On the day you bring your infant home, don’t let your cat meet them yet. Keep the door closed and let your cat explore the baby’s scent from outside. Again, reward them with treats and praise for being calm.
Then, take one of your baby’s used but clean blankets and familiarize your cat with the scent. You can also use one of the baby’s toys to do the same. Try letting your cat inside the nursery when you’re not there so they can freely sniff around where the baby’s smell is the strongest.
Do this for a few days or until your cat looks more relaxed and not as fixated on the nursery.
5. Schedule Their First Meeting!
You want to set up your cat for success, so carefully choose the day and time of your cat’s first meeting with the baby. Select a day when you relax at home the whole time, with no visitors or major activities planned.
Before letting your cat meet the baby, make sure they’ve both been fed, one potty, and maybe a bit tuckered out from playtime. Then, introduce them on neutral ground – not the nursery. The family room or living room is usually the best space for the introduction.
Start by holding your baby on your lap and let your cat` sniff them from a distance. If they show signs of fear or aggression, stop the introduction, and try again later. Above all, never leave your baby unsupervised with your cat.
6. Increase Their Interactions Gradually
If all goes well, you can gradually increase their time together. Naptime for the baby? Invite your kitty to join you in the nursery. Playtime? Let the baby watch while you and your cat play with their toys.
Still, always keep a close eye on both, and be prepared to step in at the first signs of trouble. The more vigilant you are, the safer and more pleasant their interactions will be.
Congratulations, your cat and baby are now off to a beautiful start! Just remember that introducing them is only the beginning – it takes consistency and patience to ensure a loving, lasting relationship between them.
Ultimately, all that effort is worth it, especially once you see them cuddling, playing, and growing together. Enjoy the many beautiful years ahead!