This is a sponsored post by veterinarian Elizabeth Arguelles, owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza. She writes weekly on Reston Now.
Cats are creatures of habit and like predictability in their daily routines. As a result, they are easily upset about even the smallest changes in their life or environment. Obviously, the more abrupt the change, the harder it is for a cat to adjust.
Introducing a new baby into your household can be even more difficult for your cat than other big changes. For starters, a cat that did not grow up around small children may be spooked by the loud noises and unfamiliar smells. Subtler issues may also arise. For example, your feline friend will probably have gotten used to being your first “baby” and monopolizing your attention. Sharing time with another may be an unwelcome change that provokes “revenge” behavior.
- If possible, it is best to start preparing your cat before your baby arrives. To help prepare your cat for the new bundle of joy, try focusing on the following:
- Introducing your cat gradually to the new sights, sounds and smells that it will encounter when the baby arrives. If you have friends that have small children, it might help to have them bring their kids for more frequent visits.
- Start associating small rewards or treats with positive reactions to changes, thereby making them exciting instead of upsetting.
- Buying CDs that play “baby sounds” to get them accustomed to hearing all of the various noises babies make that can be frightening to your cat. Start playing them when your cat is eating or snuggling to get it used to the sounds throughout the day.
- Resisting the urge to pay extra attention to your cat before the baby’s due date. This will only lead to more disappointment when it has to share you with someone else. Instead, start setting aside specific time to be alone with your cat instead of showering your cat with affection throughout the day. Getting your feline friend used to this special time before the baby’s arrival and continuing it afterward will help your cat feel less neglected.
- Place Feliway diffusers throughout the house to help your cat feel secure and comfortable.
- Talking to your vet about other suggestions that will make the transition smoother.
If you are not able to prepare your cat before the baby’s arrival, don’t worry. It is not too late to help your cat get used to the new addition. Here are some things you can do after the baby has arrived:
- Continue to reward your cat for good behavior around the baby with small treats.
- Move anything that your cat likes (furniture, blankets, etc.) out of the baby’s room if you decide that that space is off-limits to your feline friend.
- Arrange perches in higher areas around the house to which your cat can retreat when it wants to be out of your baby’s reach.
- Make sure the litter box is in a quiet and private location.
No matter what you do, the most important thing to remember is that your cat needs to feel loved and will need some of your attention to. With preparation and patience, your furry family can help you welcome the newest member with enough love to go around.