Babies and furbabies
We adopted Billi and Pindi from Woking Cats Protection in the summer of 2012 when they were just kittens. They soon became the centre of our family, wrapping us around their little paws and ruling the house. They were nervous little things, possibly due to the household they had been rescued from. They really only liked the two of us and hid from most other people.
By that winter there was a baby on the way. Then the comments started: ‘well you won’t have time to dedicate to the cats now’; ‘the cats are going to get totally sidelined’; ‘should you have cats around a baby?’. We were adamant it was not that difficult to manage a baby and 2 cats. After all, people manage to have second and third babies without their first child being neglected! I am always disappointed when I hear of people getting rid of their pets when a baby arrives as it’s all too difficult to spread the attention.
We read everything we could on how to make the transition as comfortable as possible for the cats. Much of it stemmed around getting the baby equipment out and around the house in the weeks running up to the baby’s arrival. Cue a lot of catnapping in prams and car seats. The advice also made clear that, of course, the cats should have parts of the house where they could go, undisturbed, once the loud baby was in the house.
When baby arrived, my husband took home some worn baby clothes from the hospital ahead of us. He put them in the baby bed and pram and left the cats to investigate. It was amazing seeing them so struck by the scent. Maybe baby smelt a bit like me but different? Could they tell it was a more significant smell than if they’d found items worn by anyone else? There was certainly a reaction.
They had the same reaction when baby came home too. Very fascinated and a little bit unsure. We immediately started Operation Kitty Calming – whoever wasn’t dealing with the baby had to be showering the cats with attention. They totally milked it and got fed far too many Dreamies!
As time wore on they settled into a routine based on divided attentions. Pindi loved to sleep in the pram and car seat and was occasionally found in the Moses basket, but had no desire to be anywhere near the baby, so we did not have any concerns about her sleeping on him. The cats kept their distance (a good excuse to sleep – lazy things) all day then when baby went to bed at night the cats came out, declared us their property for the evening and took charge of our laps. They were over the moon when baby moved to his own room and they didn’t have a squeaky wriggly thing in ‘their’ bedroom at night.
They soon realised there were some benefits to a baby: I was around the house much more and I tended to be up in the night which meant more lap time (they became pros at cramming themselves onto me alongside the baby). In time there became a lot of food to be lapped up from the floor or stolen off a highchair if we weren’t looking!
As time moved on we had the challenge of a moving baby trying to get at the cat. I get upset when I see parents letting their children chase and grab pets – it is not that difficult to set boundaries and children should be learning from very early on to respect and be kind to animals. So baby was allowed to approach them and stroke them when we were with him, but was not allowed to chase them or disturb them when they were eating or sleeping.
Now he is 3 they almost like him. Almost. They still love trying to steal his food and will sleep on his bed (once he’s asleep). He adores them and considers them all firm friends (not quite reciprocated) and he is learning the important lessons that animals need gentle hands and patience.
Then along came another baby! The cats initially were horrified and looked at us as though to say ‘what, this again?’ But they were amazing the second time – totally took it in their stride and were far more willing to hang out near baby. The lap sharing remains a firm favourite, the nighttime extra opportunities for attention is a bonus for them and they’re loving the pram making a reappearance. They almost have a gleeful look when baby starts screaming and they can saunter off and go and sleep elsewhere but I have to stay and deal with the crying! Baby number 2 is absolutely besotted with them – she grins so brightly when a cat comes into view and is beside herself with excitement when we successfully execute a kitty stroke.
So now we have 4 fabulous little ones: 2 babies and 2 furbabies. Watching them all happy and content and living confidently alongside each other fills me with such pleasure and I know that will continue for many years to come.
So if you’re figuring out how to keep your kitties content when baby comes along, don’t fret. Just remember to give them space, get them used to the equipment and the smells before baby invades their home and find time and space to shower them with love and reassurance. And use the opportunity to teach the growing babies that we treat all animals with respect and kindness: the cats and children will both thank you for it.
You may find this article from another Cats Protection branch useful too: