Cats and Babies: Friends for Life

cats-and-babies

Last updated January 19, 2018

Every year, a large number of cats are surrendered to shelters because a new baby has arrived and parents believe well-meaning relatives or old-school obstetricians who have convinced them that keeping a cat risks the health and well-being of their child.

There is absolutely no reason to give up a cat when a baby arrives. Simple, common sense precautions can prepare your cat for your baby’s arrival, and keep both safe.

Prepare your cat for the new baby

Acclimate your cat to baby-related smells and sounds. Apply baby powder or baby oil to your skin so your cat will associate the scent with you. Play a recording of baby noises. Make it a pleasant experience for your cat by rewarding her with treats and play while you do this.

If you have friends with babies, ask them to bring their children over for brief visits. Supervise these visits carefully, and offer praise and treat to your cat for good behavior so she will form a pleasant association with babies.

Start your cat used to probing and poking baby fingers. Gently give your cat a little poke, prod or pinch. Reward good behavior with treats.

The baby’s room

Decide whether the baby’s room will be off limits to your cat, or whether she will be allowed in the room. If the baby’s room will be off limits, remove any furniture your cat likes to lie on or sleep on from the room so she will still be able to use those favorite pieces elsewhere in the house.

If your cat will be allowed in the baby’s room, she will most likely be fascinated by the crib. Discourage her from sleeping in it by placing cat deterrent devices like the SSSCat near the crib. Provide alternate sleeping places for your cat in the baby’s room. Add a cat bed or cat tree, and reward your cat for using them.

When baby comes home

Before you bring the baby home from the hospital, send a blanket or sock or item of clothing with the baby’s scent on it home so your cat can get used to the scent.

When you return home with the baby, have someone else hold the baby in another room while you greet your cat and play with her. Keep things lowkey.

Help your cat enjoy being near the baby. Offer praise, toys and treats when she approaches the baby, but don’t force her to be near the baby. She’ll investigate when she’s ready.

It’s a myth that cats try to smother babies. If you see your cat sniffing your baby’s face, praise him for her nice, calm behavior.

Always supervise interactions between cat and baby

It’s best to keep a watchful eye on both cat and baby. Don’t hover or worry, but be aware and ready to intervene if you have to. Always be gentle about any needed intervention.

Minimize changes in routine and attention

Your schedule will be hectic once the baby arrives. If you need to change your cat’s feeding schedule and the times when you’ll be able to give her attention and play with her, make the changes before the baby arrives.

Resist the temptation to give your cat extra attention before the baby arrives. This will only makes things more difficult for her when you find yourself having less time to pay attention to her. Try to ease your cat into a schedule that is realistic for you, but doesn’t short change your cat.

The relationship between cats and children can be very special if you nurture it from an early age. Studies have shown that children who grow up with pets have higher self-esteem and improved social skills. They learn to care for others at an early age. There is also evidence that growing up with pets may help develop non-verbal communication.

This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.

11 Comments on Cats and Babies: Friends for Life

  1. Sepo
    January 27, 2014 at 6:40 pm (6 years ago)

    I reember a tale that pregnant women should never be around cats or cat hair as they could cause a problem with the formation of the baby or even cause a miscarriage 🙁

    Reply
  2. monica ackerman
    January 27, 2014 at 1:55 pm (6 years ago)

    I once wrote a stort about baby and cats for the now-defunct catnipchronicles e-zine. You are all correct. Old wives tales and medieval superstitions have done a lot to discredit cats and their relationship to babies especially. I observed my antisocial rather aloof cat with my first grand daughter and discovered she loved him and he tolerated her. He never lifted a paw or hissed in her direction. I believe the really old wives tales may have started from rumors about kitties sitting on baby’s faces and smothering them. My logical explanation for that is the residue of milk around the baby’s mouth may have attracted the kitty to get close to her face but no cat I have ever known would sit down on a human’s face. Send me your email if you want me to send you the story.

    Reply
  3. Sue Brandes
    January 27, 2014 at 11:22 am (6 years ago)

    I see so many cats on Craiglist because people are having babies and they don’t want them anymore. So sad. I always had kitties around my babies. They never hurt. In fact they always watched over them.

    Reply
  4. Viki Worden
    January 27, 2014 at 11:56 am (6 years ago)

    I just never understand people. How could you give up a family member, which is what a kitty is. I have had animals as far back as I can remember. I didn’t give up my kitties because of my daughter or son either. My cat I used to have did scratch my daughter once when she started crawling. I was firm with my kitty and told her no. She never did it again. The kitty I had when my son was little never really bothered him. The kitty (Licorice) would run away from him most of the time. My daughter was at the age where she thought it was fun to pick on the kitty so she got scratched a few times. She loves all animals now and is a vet tech. She has 4 kitties of her own and she is teaching her 2 year old how to treat them and pet them, etc. My son never really appreciated my kitties. He said cats were for women. Well, since he went away to college he changed when he came home for the xmas holiday. He said he never thought he would miss them like he did. He interacts with them all now. I think having pets makes you a nicer person too. Everyone I meet that owns animals or loves animals are really nice. My son’s girlfriend is going to college right now to become a vet. She has always been afraid of cats but is getting more accustomed to them by being at my house. I have a couple of friends who live alone and I am always trying to talk them into getting a cat. They are great company even though they can’t talk to you in our language, they seem to understand us.

    Reply
  5. Mary
    January 27, 2014 at 10:29 am (6 years ago)

    I’m going to have my first baby in just over a month, and I’ve already run into a lot of negative cat-related remarks. I write about my cats in my local newspaper on a semi-weekly basis, so everyone knows I have them, and everyone can tell I’m expecting. Just the other day, someone asked, “So what will you do with the cats now that you have a baby on the way?” I replied, “They can adapt and get along with him.”

    Even my husband, who is a tremendous cat lover, isn’t convinced that our cats will be okay with our baby. It’s not like I plan to stick all four of them in the baby’s crib with him and leave them there all day! We’re going to install a gate in front of the nursery to keep the cats from hanging out in there, but I want my son to grow up with animals and learn to love them and how to treat them gently from an early age.

    I’ve never worried about cats and babies. I’m concerned about our standard poodle, who is as big as I am, but not the cats!

    Reply
  6. Rebecca
    January 27, 2014 at 8:18 am (6 years ago)

    I of course was to young to remember but my cat Fluffy never left my crib. He was always there protecting me. Church members would come to visit but if Fluffy did not approve they were not allowed to pick me up.

    My daughter grew up with animals and shares the same love. Our foster child has learned how to treat the cats and one has adopted her as his favorite human.

    Depending on your cats personality, it should be fine, and will enhance that baby’s life. If however the cat has a wild streak, illness that causes pain, etc, it may be wise to proceed with caution.

    Reply
  7. June Ferley
    January 27, 2014 at 7:37 am (6 years ago)

    I want to say that I raised my babies with a Siamese cat and had no problems or negative incidents what so ever. I introduced each new baby to the cat when we came home from the hospital and she watched over each one like a watch dog… she was very protective! There would never be a moments hesitation on my part to have a cat and a new baby!!

    Reply
  8. Cynthia
    January 27, 2014 at 4:36 am (6 years ago)

    My cat does better with my 8 month old baby than my 3 dogs, and we didn’t have to work on their relationship at all. I worry more about my son hurting her, than I worry about her hurting him. He still is too young to know not to grab/pull on hair, ears, and tail and she wants to constantly be near him so it’s a constant struggle to make sure that he doesn’t injure her and that she doesn’t injure him because he’s hurting her. So far she just lays there and continues to purr whenever he pulls on her. I almost wish she didn’t like him *quite* so much so I wouldn’t have to constantly be on my toes – at least to the point where she’d get up and leave when he starts being a bugger.

    The dogs, on the other hand, won’t even let him get near them. As soon as he locks his eyes on them they get up and move to another room lol. And their personalities range from aloof/independant to major cuddle bug.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 27, 2014 at 4:24 pm (6 years ago)

      Sounds like your baby and your cat are working on forming that lifelong friendship, Cynthia!

      Reply
  9. Safepethaven
    January 27, 2014 at 1:35 am (6 years ago)

    I’ve never understood why otherwise fairly intelligent individuals
    would choose to believe rumors, old wives’ tales, voodoo or whatever
    one wants to call them, these “truths” that have been debunked for
    decades, especially when the result leads to death — of a family pet!

    Is it that, hidden behind their decision to surrender, is their laziness
    in investing the required commitment of time and effort [just like
    when having a child] in bringing the established family member to
    know and love the newcomer? Surely a two-child family would not
    surrender their first-born, just because they anticipate having a
    second child?

    Someone, please, explain this change-in-commitment-to-a-living-being
    thing to me in terms I can understand.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 27, 2014 at 4:23 pm (6 years ago)

      I don’t understand it, either. That’s why I think education is key.

      Reply

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