Before the Stork: Preparing Your Cat for a New Baby

It’s an exciting (and scary) time! A new baby is on the way and your family is going to get bigger. On top of everything else that you’ve got to think about, you may be wondering how your cat is going to handle this change. Or if you can even keep your cat now that a baby is on the way.

(This is the first post in a series on cats and kids. If you’re past the pregnancy phase, you can read about cats and babies or cats and toddlers.)

Cats and A Healthy Pregnancy

First things first: your doctor is the most valuable source of information on keeping an expectant mother and her baby healthy during pregnancy. The information below is just a quick overview.

Pregnant Belly

The main reason that people worry about having a cat around a pregnant woman is a parasite called toxoplasmosis. If a woman is newly infected just before or during pregnancy, serious medical complications can result. And cat feces are one of the sources of this parasite.

There’s good news though. Most indoor cats don’t carry toxoplasmosis. On top of that, a cat can only pass on the parasite for 3 weeks even if they were infected in the past. Finally, toxoplasmosis in a cat feces is not infectious until 1-5 days after it’s shed so exposure to “fresh” feces is less of a concern.

The Center for Disease Control has a couple of pages on prevention and pregnancy with recommendations for keeping safe. The main points are to keep your cat(s) inside, clean the litter box every day, and either have a non-pregnant person clean the box or wear gloves.

Prepare Ahead

Many of the potential challenges between cat and baby can be prevented with a little work ahead of time. Taking some time before the baby comes home will save effort and trouble later.

Setting Up Baby’s Space

Include your cat in the process of setting up your new baby’s space. This can help them adjust as well as set up good boundaries for when your baby comes home.

Prepare Ahead

Many of the potential challenges between cat and baby can be prevented with a little work ahead of time. Taking some time before the baby comes home will save effort and trouble later.

Setting Up Baby’s Space

Include your cat in the process of setting up your new baby’s space. This can help them adjust as well as set up good boundaries for when your baby comes home.

  • If you need to relocate any of your cat’s things (like the litter box), do this well ahead of time and slowly.
  • Let your cat investigate the baby’s room and get familiar with new furniture. Keeping them out completely is more likely to make them stressed.
  • Set up deterrents in the crib to make it clear that this is NOT a cat bed. This could include laying down uncomfortable surfaces in the crib or using a crib net/tent.

Scent Matters

Scent is extremely important to cats and a new baby is going to bring a big change to how your home smells. Letting your cat get familiar with the new scents and incorporate their own scent into the mix will help them feel secure. Security means fewer behavior problems.

Make Your Home Cat Friendly

Kitten in Baby Basket

Take a little time to make sure your home is optimally set up for your cat. The biggest things to look at are vertical space and litter box setup. No matter how well you prepare, bringing home a new baby will be stressful for your whole family. A cat that could tolerate an imperfect litter box may react to that stress with litter box issues. Tension between cats could tip over into fighting. Doing a quick review of your home now can prevent those issues later.

Change is Coming

Cats love consistency and routine. Babies change all of that. There are some things that can’t be helped but avoid making any changes to your cat’s life that you can. This means no new type of litter or changes in food. Don’t rock the boat if you don’t have to.

One major thing that will change is your cat’s routine. They aren’t going to get the play time that they are used to or attention whenever they ask for it. Their feeding time may even become more flexible (gasp!).

To prepare them for this, start shifting their schedule now. Incorporate new independent play options into their day. Food puzzles, battery-operated toys, catnip “parties”, and videos for cats can be easy ways to occupy a cat with little attention and effort. Start introducing them now so your cat is used to them and you can identify their favorites.

Don’t start giving your cat more attention in anticipation of having less time in the future. Instead identify their most favorite but easy activities. Think ear rubs, interactive play sessions, or treat time. These will be your go-to quick moments to enjoy your cat.

With a little work ahead of time, your cat will be ready to welcome a new baby into the family. This next post covers cats, infants, and the next chapter for your family. 

If your cat has a behavior problem that you need help solving before your baby comes, consider scheduling a private behavior consultation.