Pets and Pregnancy, Part Two: Your Cat, Your Pregnancy, and Bringing Home Baby
Where would we be without our furbabies?
Our cuddly cats, our delightful dogs, our fine feathered friends. We adore them. They fill our heart with unconditional love. Sometimes we even feel lost when they are not by our side. They are the keepers of secrets, the nonjudgmental listening ears, and soothers of our soul. But now we are going to be introducing someone new to the mix…your darling new baby. What happens now? How can we keep Fluffy, Fido, and Finch from feeling left out?
In this second installment of our Pets and Pregnancy blog series, we are going to talk about getting your feline friend ready for Baby’s homecoming.
Remember, as your baby bump grows, your cat is probably getting a sense of what is going on. After all, they make babies too! Of course, if kitty has been the sole “baby” in your life up until now, she may get her “nose out of joint” as she realizes something is going to change. He may feel knocked off his king of the home throne and replaced when the new baby in the house arrives. Here are some tips to ease your cat’s transition to life with Baby.
Achoo! What about allergies?
Will having a cat in the house cause your baby to become prone to allergic reactions to fur and dander? There is no way of knowing if your baby will be allergic to your cat but some studies suggest that babies exposed to cats and other pets before their first birthday are less likely to suffer from allergies to fur and dander. You can read more about this study here. If you have allergies, be sure to speak to your health care provider and find out which allergy medications are safe to take while you are pregnant.
Possible unpredictability...or “Wait! What? Who is this cat and what did you do with Fluffy?”
It has been my experience as a cat owner that felines pretty much pick and choose when they want to be “loved on” and by whom. My cats tended to be extra-affectionate with me during both of my pregnancies. One of the kitties was fascinated by the little kicks and flutters moving across my baby bump, tracking the movements and even pouncing on me from time to time. Both cats were full of purrs and kneaded on my shoulders as I sat in the easy chair. I have also heard stories of fickle felines suddenly shunning the expecting mother and becoming “attached” to her partner.
If you’re a cat owner, you know a kitty can love a good belly rub one minute, then suddenly attack your hand so violently you’d swear he became a wild tiger…and then switch back to the docile friend you adore. Now what if your baby startles your cat, pulls her fur, or grabs his tail? It can happen. So while baby is still safely “inside”, start helping your cat to become accustomed to sudden movements, slight tugs of her fur or tail, and the occasional toy falling on the floor beside him. Reward kitty when she acts appropriately. Praise her good behavior. Talk to her about the changes that will be happening…yes, I said it, talk to your cat. Cats respond to the changes in our voice, our tone, and inflection, pitch, and volume. Your voice can be soothing and reassuring.
Time to make some noise!
Your new little human comes with an assortment of sounds, giggles, cries, shrieks, and coos. And Baby’s accoutrements come with all sorts of bells and whistles. How can you get your cat accustomed to these sounds? Turn on the baby swing or toys that make noise. Play recordings of babies crying at various volumes. Mimic baby sounds. Invite friends to bring their little ones over to visit to see how Kitty reacts to babies. Be sure to monitor your cat closely during these visits.
Take a sniff!
You will be bringing various different scents into your home as you get ready for baby, and once your baby is home. Let your cat sniff the new stuff you’re buying for the baby; diapers, lotions, cribs, and car seats all have distinct odors with which Kitty should become familiarized. However, something to watch out for…before my son was born, my kitties believed the car seat and baby swing were their new beds. The “alpha” cat also headed straight for the crib once it was set up. These were habits we had to nip in the bud right away. If you have new rules, start enforcing them now. Let your cat know where they allowed to go in the house, where they are invited to hang out, what they can cuddle up on, and appropriate places to sleep.
Get down, Kitty! Get off that changing table!!
You may want to train your cat not to jump up in your lap without permission as soon that is where your little one will be cuddling. Some expectant moms have found it helpful to place aluminum foil or double -sided tape on surfaces, such as changing tables, bassinets, and cribs, they want to train kitty to avoid. Cats are not usually fond of their paws landing on these materials. Other potentially harmful behaviors that need to be curbed include pouncing, swatting, nibbling, and even sometimes incessant licking.
Sorry my feline friend, not now...
Once baby is home, you’ll probably be spending less time lavishing your furbaby with affection. You can help your cat adjust to this change by slowly spending less time with them now. Gradual change is much easier on an animal than just cutting them off completely when your little one comes home. This may also cut down on any resentment Kitty may be feeling. Also, as mentioned before, your feline friend may build a stronger relationship with your partner at this time, which may not be a bad idea.
And lastly, take your cat to the vet…and arrange a kitty sitter, please.
Try to get your kitty checked out by their veterinarian before Baby comes along to assure they are healthy and up to date on all vaccinations. Also, be sure to make arrangements for your cat’s care while you are off delivering your baby. Be sure to write down your kitty’s schedule, what treats they like, how much food they get, what to do if Kitty sneaks out the door, and the veterinarian’s phone number. Develop a care plan, much like you created a birth plan.
By staying on top of any potential behavior issues, having a cat during your pregnancy and afterward can be wonderful for you and your baby. After all, Fluffy is a member of your family; so enjoy your baby and your furbaby!
Please watch for our next installment of the “Pets and Pregnancy” blog in which we will discuss pregnancy, babies, and your dog.