The ASPCA says 3.2 million cats enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Some women, often first-time moms, worry about their cat during pregnancy so much that they surrender the animal. But there is a lot of misinformation about pregnancy, cats and newborns.
I think having an animal in your life makes you a better human.Rachael Ray
Save yourself the sorrow and guilt about giving up your beloved feline friend. Read on for a better understanding of facts and myths about your fur baby and your new baby.
Cats and Newborns
The Great Myth About Litter Boxes
The first thing that comes to mind when you hear pregnant and cat in the same sentence is toxoplasmosis, a rare parasitic disease. According to the CDC more than 40 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness and very few of them will ever show symptoms.
The risks of toxoplasmosis are very real. Catching the disease in the early stages of pregnancy can result in miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects. But when it comes down to it, you are more likely to catch toxoplasmosis from eating undercooked meat or gardening without gloves.
There are several precautions you can take, but getting rid of your cat, or placing them outdoors is unnecessary and upsetting to you both. I dealt with our litter box issue by getting the Litter-Robot, an automatic self-cleaning litter box. It is virtually hands-off—except for that time I forgot to make sure it had litter, but that’s another story—and hubby and the kids help with any deep cleaning.
Here is a helpful list of tips to avoid catching toxoplasmosis.
- If you are concerned use gloves to clean your litter box and wash your hands after.
- Keep your cat indoors away from other cats, or small animals he may eat.
- Do not eat undercooked meat.
- Thoroughly wash raw vegetables before eating.
- Thoroughly clean any cutting boards and utensils that might have come in contact with meat before using them.
- Wear gloves when gardening or working in the dirt. If you don’t wear gloves be sure to wash your hand well and use a nailbrush.
- Ask someone to help clean the litter box while you’re pregnant.
- Change the cat’s litter frequently.
Before Baby Comes Home
Cats and newborns can get along fine. But your feline friend, like many cats, is a creature of habit. He likes things to be predictable, and adding in a baby is a big change.
You will want to gradually make as many changes as you can before you bring home your bundle of joy. These will easy your fur friend into it with less undue stress and anxiety.
Having a baby will definitely affect your plans and schedules. Take the time to think about how your daily routine is going to be altered and begin adjusting it now.
This is especially important if it affects when the cat will be fed or by whom. Starting your new routine before baby arrives will help your feline adjust without associating it with your baby.
Also think about how sleep time, sleep location, playtime, and grooming may need to be adjusted.
Litter Box Issues
If your cat’s bathroom, also known as your spare room, will now belong to the baby you will likely want to move the litter box. This deserves time to transition your cat to his new litter box location in a compassionate way. Remember, cats don’t like change.
You will want to move the litter box gradually, starting with just a few inches, each day. If you move the box completely in one big move your fur friend may decide to relieve himself there despite the box not being there.
There are lots of wonderful tools you could consider when training your cat to use the litter box in the new location. Also, moving a large piece of furniture into the old litter box location will discourage the cat from returning there.
Cats and Newborns’ Sounds
You may have heard of people buying CD’s of baby sounds for their pets and thought it was totally crazy. But there is actually something to it. Baby cries are similar to the sounds kittens make when they are in distress. Logically, your furry friend may get upset when he hears it.
Thankfully, now you only have to go as far as YouTube or other streaming services to find these noises.
Play the sounds in the locations you will likely have the baby. If your cat begins to cautiously investigate or ignores the noise be sure to praise him with calm words and relaxing strokes. Playing a game when you start the sounds will also create a positive correlation for your pet.
You will be using all kinds of new products when the baby arrives. Try washing your hands with the soaps and use the lotions ahead of time to acclimate your cat to the new smells. Your pet will begin to associate these smells with positive interactions when you pet him with your baby-smell hands.
Also if you are able to have your partner bring home one of the newborn’s swaddle blankets this will ease the initial introduction. Even if it is only 24 hours ahead of time it will help make your feline familiar with baby’s smell before he arrives.
Another great tip is to pet your cat with one of your newborn’s socks. Have your infant wear this sock, scented side out, for his initial introduction.
You cannot share your life with a dog…or a cat, and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings.Jane Goodall, British Anthropologist
Cats and Newborns in Your Home
When the baby comes home you will be excited, worried, tired, and so much more. It’s a momentous occasion, but you will not want to alarm your pet with overemphasis.
Since you have been in the hospital your pet will have missed your presence and even worried about you. Take a quiet moment to pet your fur friend one-on-one.
After your reunion, it’s time to make introductions. Cats and newborns can be fast friends. Place your baby where your pet can actually look at, smell, and touch him.
If your cat smells its own scent on the baby (from the sock) he is more likely to accept your infant as part of the family. Be sure to give him calm reassuring praise when he treats the baby in a positive manner. You want your pet to associate treating your baby well with good things for himself like affection.
Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.Albert Einstein
Cats, Bassinets, and Naptime, Oh My!
One of the biggest myths when it comes to cats and newborns is that cats smother babies, or suck the air out of their lungs. The fact of the matter is that cats want to live the most comfortable lifestyle possible, so they seek out heat and comfort.
Your newborn is a living heat pad.
Cats will enjoy snuggling next to your little one (and is not trying to smother), but newborns do not have the understanding or ability to turn their heads if they cannot breathe. SIDS is still a tragic issue in the United States and can sadly happen to anyone. Doctors advise new parents to avoid pillows, baby bumpers, and cosleeping directly in the bed due to the infant’s inability to protect itself from suffocating.
Your cat is essentially a pillow your little one cannot avoid.
Protecting Your Infant While Sleeping
I hope the above didn’t scare you, but it is better safe than sorry as they say. There are several things you can do to protect your little one from too much cat love. When your infant is not in his bassinet you can establish it as a cat-free zone.
Place plastic protective floor mats wrong side up (with the pokies up) inside the bassinet or on the floor at the entrance of the nursery. This will make the bassinet or nursery an uncomfortable if not unwelcoming place.
Close the door to the nursery when your infant is sleeping. If you don’t have a door use a baby gate or temporary screen door. Keeping cats and newborns separated at rest time eliminates the risk.
Keeping to Routines
Now that your little one is around you will want to be conscious of keeping your pet’s routines. Make sure that feeding, grooming, litter box, and playtime is being maintained at the same frequency as before. This will help prevent lash out behaviors from your cat.
I know how busy it can be, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have older children have them take on more responsibilities to care for your pet.
If not, there are many friends and family members who want to help you in any way they can. Let them give your feline some special love and attention.
Another important tip, when family and friends arrive to see the baby, be sure to encourage them to give positive reinforcement to your cat. This way he will associate positive interaction with your baby.
Feedings Equal Fun for Cats and Newborns
Feedings are a great time to give your feline the extra love he will need. Whether you are bottle-feeding or breastfeeding you will be sitting for quite a while.
Grab a bag of cat treats and a laser pointer before you hunker down. Give treats and play with your cat as you feed the baby. This is also the perfect time to allow your cat to have interactions with your infant and associate the baby with positive reinforcement.
Indeed, there is nothing on this earth more peaceful than a sleeping, purring cat.Jonathon Scott Payne
I hope I revealed some new information about cats and newborns living together. Know that you don’t have to surrender your longtime fur friend. With a little forethought and a lot of love, you can make the transition easy for cats and newborns living together.
Don’t stress about your cat’s behavior. He can sense your mood, so remember to keep your cool as best you can throughout it all.
Check out the blog for more great articles on cat care to help with other behavior issues that might develop as your family grows. And if you’re expecting, we have essential oil recommendations for pregnancy symptoms and postpartum!