“How are we going to keep the cat out of the nursery?” Kate asked, scruffing Cinnamon’s tiger-striped chin. Cinnamon twitched her tail and peered (glared?) innocently from inside the crib.
“What are we doing wrong? The more we try to keep her out, the more she wants to jump in there,” Aaron replied, “and nap on that blanket.” He pointed to the soft Winnie the Pooh baby quilt Kate’s grandmother had lovingly stitched.
My daughter and son-in-law are expecting their first baby. Up until now, Cinnamon had been their “first child.” They’d cuddled the new kitten and carried her around.
They fed her, played with her and watched her grow, just as they would a human offspring.
That’s because our pets are part of the family, and family members are supposed to look after, protect and care for one another.
And when their family was about to grow, Kate and Aaron prepared their house for the birth of their daughter, including preparing the cat, hoping to make her adjustment just as smooth as possible.
“Obviously the baby gate I installed does no good,” Aaron said. ‘Cinnamon scaled it in one swift leap.”
“Should the room be off-limits,” Kate wondered, “or not? What should we do?”
I wasn’t sure how to help–I’ve only had dogs and babies together, and admittedly (since I’m becoming a grandma) that was a few years ago.
So I turned to cat blogger Robin from Playful Kitty for a few tips. Here are her suggestions;
1. Cats are territorial and mark their territory by putting their scent all over it via scent glands in their cheeks, on their hips and in their paws.
If something isn't a part of their territory, it will cause anxiety to the cat. It’s a good idea to allow the cat into the baby's room before the baby is born so it can get comfortable with all of the new things that are there.
2. If you have a cat that is comfortable with visitors, I would have any friends with babies visit so that the cat can see "little humans."
3. Once the baby is born, let the cat meet the baby in the safety of your arms. It may take time (perhaps a couple of weeks) for the cat to get used to the new addition to the family. Chances are if the baby cries, the cat will just run away and hide.
And, if you have a Basset in the bassinette, Jodi from Heart Like a Dog adds a few more tips for dog people:
1. Before the baby is due, place a doll in the baby’s bouncy seat, crib, bassinet and high chair. Let the dog see and sniff the “baby.” Use the word a “gentle” when the dog approaches and offer a treat.
2. Play a recording of a baby's cry and help the dog understand that the noise is okay. My experience has been some dogs will be okay with it while others may not.
3. Once the baby is born, bring some of the baby’s items with the baby’s scent on it into the home and let the dog sniff it.
I can’t wait to share these excellent tips with Kate and Aaron. Most could apply to both cats and dogs. In addition, I’d never leave a pet–cat or dog–unattended with a baby.
Welcoming a new family member is a joyful experience, and if properly prepared, one that can only strengthen our bonds with our furry-four-legged babies.