Urban myths of babies and cats sharing a home. – Truth or fiction?

Over our years in rescue I can honestly say 1 of the most common reasons for relinquishment of a pet is the arrival of a new baby.  Sometimes the cat or dog is rehomed before the baby even arrives thereby denying their ‘loved’ pet any chance of forming a bond with their new human arrival & even remotely giving things a chance.

Before I go any further I want to qualify my experience here as no doubt some will read and think, how would you know? Clearly you don’t have children?  Well guess what, we do.

We have a 10 month old little boy who adores the cats and greets them all with a huge smile. The cats on the other hand are quite happy to take or leave him but the key aspect is they have an understanding.  I have no doubt whatsoever that he will be scratched as he gets older, but like I did as a child, he will learn not to annoy the cats if he doesn’t want scratched.

The famous line I hear is ” But the midwife said….”   yeah yeah yeah.. I heard it all too and as I said to them.  Toxoplasmosis can be an issue in some cats however basic hygiene and washing hands regularly will negate the risk.  Having watched the poor hygiene of several so called professionals I can honestly say I would rather eat a sandwich I prepared after having petted my cat and washed my hands than I would one made by them.

Let’s be practical.  You don’t have to run & hide from a litter box all you have to bear in mind is wash your hands well and use a litter scoop. Even don marigolds if you have to.  Feel free to use it as an excuse to get hubby to do the litter boxes a while, but don’t make it a reason to get rid of your cat.   After all you pett your cat everyday who cleans themselves with their tongue…. everywhere! Bet you never thought of that when you kissed them last night?

I’m not being naive and there is a period of adjustment for them all. But the bigger ordeal you make of small changes the more you feed anxious signals to your cat.  The end result is a highly stressed cat and a cat who may become aggressive or spray / inappropriately urinate around the house. 

If your cat develops stress related behaviours like these don’t look at it as an objection. An act of defiance or jealousy. Instead see it from their point of view.

Whilst you are all wrapped up in the excitement of the new addition your body is changing. Your cat can sense this and may even be anxious from not understanding what is happening. Next, you begin bringing things home for the baby and maybe even shutting them out a room they previously were allowed access to. Perhaps even chasing them from the babys things re- enforcing their anxieties and assuring them they have a reason to be unsettled or stressed.

By the time baby arrives they are SO stressed out they don’t feel safe in their own home. Everytime they go near this tiny noisy human they are chased away, building fear of the baby and often tipping the cat ‘over the edge’. Often this is when aggression can play a factor.

So how do you prevent this stressful situation?

By considering your cat and the role it plays in your life. If your cat was once your baby is it really fair to expect them to understand why you hardly have time for them once baby arrives.

Make changes at home, to their routine, access to the house gradual. Slow and steady and allow the cats a chance to see what is going on, to sniff items and gradually reduce contact if you have previously been very attentive with them.

1 mistake many people make is they take baby to see the cat or vice versa. Don’t.

Let kitty decide when they feel brave enough to come up and say hi. Your cat will be terrified of this strange small person and you forcing baby on them is going to completely freak them out and erode their trust with you.

Don’t faff or fuss. Keep calm and speak gently if you have to speak at all. Should baby move chances are your cat will run & hide anyway. Let them go. Don’t give chase & try talking to them. Ignore them and by doing so you are telling them they don’t have to be afraid.

Essentially use common sense and treat your cat with the consideration you would anyone else in your family.

It’s not impossible, you just have to be willing to try.

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2 Responses to Urban myths of babies and cats sharing a home. – Truth or fiction?

  1. cookiesmummy says:

    Totally agree. My last cat was about 11 years old when our first was born. He was an easily stressed cat and something as simple as the Christmas tree being put up could tip him over the edge. His stress resulted in urinary tract infections.

    During my pregnancy we made the decision to limit access to our bedroom at night. But that was the only major change. When our son arrived we just let the cat go about his business. He was relatively disinterested in our son and wasn’t stressed in the slightest. He’d sometimes come for a cuddle when I was feeding, which was tricky, but we worked it out. Over the following 6 years they formed a huge bond. Our cat knew how to behave himself – he’d only lash out if he felt threatened. Our son needed to be taught how to behave himself around the cat though!

  2. Lorna says:

    Toxoplasmosis can only be caught from a cat during two weeks of its entire life. It is only excreted when the cat is first infected by toxoplasmosis from about one week after infection to about three weeks after infection. Outside this tiny window, the cat is no risk to you. The chances of that tiny window coinciding with your pregnancy are almost nil. There are many other sources of toxoplasmosis, such as raw meat, but you don’t hear pregnant women saying they must become vegetarian for the rest of their life.

    I think the problem is too many people see the cat as an inconvience. It was a lovely companion and substitute baby but they’re getting the “real thing” now and they don’t need the cat any more. Society, in the form of a cat shelter, is now responsible for their “problem”. These are the same people who will become angry if the shelter tells them that they ask a fee to cover the costs of taking on the responsibility that they’ve decided to drop. They tell the shelter that they shouldn’t have to pay a fee because they’ve “got a baby to pay for”.

    They tell their friends and family – most of whom will think they’re “doing the responsible thing” – that they’ll get a new cat when their child is older. Perhaps they’ll get a female and allow her to have one litter of kittens, because you’re “supposed to do that before they’re neutered”, so that their child can “see the miracle of life” (or so that they can sell them for £70). When the kittens are three months old and they can’t find homes, they are once more an “inconvienice”, so the shelter gets another demanding phone call.

    At least that’s it. Until they decide to have another baby and the new cat is once again surplus to requirements…

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