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Cat, Meet Baby: How to Successfully Introduce Your Newborn and Kitty

introducing newborns to catsAre you pregnant and wondering how this will affect your relationship with your feline friend? The good news is that cats and babies can live in harmony. There are a few things that can help you safely and compassionately introduce baby and kitty.

Safety with Cats During Pregnancy

Pregnant women shouldn’t handle cat litter (Yay!!!). Cats can be infected with toxoplasmosis, which is caused by a parasite called toxoplasma gondii. Cats can pass the parasite through their feces. Cats become infected by eating raw meat or digging in infected soil, so outdoor cats who may hunt and eat small animals are more likely to be in contact with the parasite. Indoor cats would really only be infected if you feed them raw meat.

Cats and humans can luckily build immunity to toxoplasmosis, so if you or your cat has ever been infected, it’s probably fine now. You can test for the parasite if you want, although the test looks for the antibodies, meaning you’ll just know if you’re immune or nonimmune.  “Nonimmune” can mean that you’ve never been exposed, or it could mean that you’re actively infected. Ask your vet and/or doctor for more about this.

If you come in contact with the parasite while you’re pregnant, your baby could become infected. You can definitely keep your feline friend; however, do not get a new cat or touch stray cats while you’re pregnant. Daily changing of the litter box by someone other than you will prevent the spread of toxoplasmosis.

Preparing Cats for a New Baby

Your cat has more than likely been spoiled with love and attention, so the whole new baby thing can cause some confusion or sadness. Although you won’t love her less, a new baby will understandably take precedence over the cat. It’s important to have a plan in place before the birth to help your cat adjust.

Cats who haven’t been exposed to babies may be frightened or concerned when they hear an infant’s cry. It’s smart to play recordings of babies crying from time to time before your baby is born, so that your cats become accustomed to the high frequency of the sound. With many cats, it only takes a few times for them to go from anxious to apathetic. Continue to play it as your pregnancy progresses to keep it fresh in their minds.

If your cats love to sleep on your bed, you may want to start changing that, since it may not be be possible, if you plan to bed- or roomshare. Start sleeping with the door closed so the cats won’t even be able to enter the bedroom. To help with the transition, put out a cozy collection of pillows and blankets in some of their favorite materials (mainly fleece) in the other room so they can be as comfortable as possible and hopefully even prefer their new arrangement.

Introducing Cats and Babies

Cats recognize humans and other cats by scent. They mix their scents with those they consider family to create a communal scent. That’s why cats are always rubbing on things and people. You can use this to help your cat accept your new infant.

Before you’re ready to introduce your cat to your baby, begin placing blankets your baby has used for your cat to lie on. This way your cat will be introduced to your baby’s scent. Right before you introduce the two of them, rub a pair of your baby’s socks on your cat (you want to rub the outside of the socks, so keep them right side out). Then put the socks on the baby’s feet. When your cat first meets your baby, the baby will already smell like the cat!

Safety with Cats’ Claws

Declawing cats is a cruel practice (removing the claw is akin to removing the first joint of each of your fingers) and should not be done. However, it’s smart to clip your cat’s nails regularly after the baby is born. This ensures that the claw is not sharp or hooked. The best nail clippers are especially made for cats and can be bought at a pet supply store. Pressing the pad of the cat’s paw will push out the nail so you can easily clip it. DO NOT cut past the quick (the pink part), or you will injure your cat. Read more about clipping your cat’s nails here. If your cat has trouble sitting still during this, a vet can do it, too.

Universal Safety with Cats and Babies

Remember you must ALWAYS supervise your baby and your cat, and they must NEVER be left alone together. Cats can become startled and unpredictable. It’s also possible for them to squish or suffocate the baby because they’ll likely love to cuddle up during nap time. These danger are unlikely, but possible, and can easily be prevented by supervision.

With proper preparation and supervision, a very special relationship will grow between your cat and your child!

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