How do I introduce a new baby to my cat?

This is a very common problem, and has been since people domesticated cats. Sometimes cats don't get along with a new baby at first. They react much the same way that an older sibling might - getting jealous and spiteful that somebody else is in their house, sucking up all of their attention. This has spawned all kinds of legends - there is an old wives' tale about cats sucking out the souls of children (obviously, not true). They could well dislike your new baby, however, and may behave aggressively towards them at first or hiss at them.

   

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You can ease the transition for your cat, however, with some common sense and some easy techniques. First, before you bring the baby home, introduce the scent to your cat. A blanket the baby has been wrapped in for awhile works wonders for this. Get one and bring it home, and let the cat smell it and get used to it.

Just before the baby's arrival, lavish attention on your cat. Get it in a good mood - feed it, give it a few treats that it likes, and pet it. When you're ready, bring in the baby to meet your cat. If you've got two people there, you may want one to keep petting the cat while one sits down with the baby for awhile in the same room so you can take things slowly. Let it sniff the baby, and if it hisses or gets angry just cut off the session - don't yell or try to punish it. As long as the cat is just sniffing and investigating, keep praising it, petting it, and talking to the cat. If things don't work out, try to just keep them separated for awhile and reintroduce them again later.

Once the baby is at your home permanently, make sure to focus attention on your cat as well. Jealousy is the biggest reasons cats won't like new babies - usually it's not a territorial thing, as long as the cat can figure out it's a person. Play with your cat regularly, always give it attention, and don't kick it out of any rooms it usually gets to hang out in if you can avoid it.

If you're still having problems, then keep the cat and the baby separated unless you are there to supervise. As the baby grows older and becomes a toddler, you may have to be more careful about this as well. You do not want your child hitting the cat, pulling on its ears, etc. They will not understand what appropriate behavior is and may unintentionally harm the cat. You may have to discourage rough play - at this point, the problem is more about training your child than training your cat. For example, when I was extremely young, I decided it would be a good idea to give my cat a "haircut" with kiddie scissors. We were still friends, but she didn't have whiskers for a few months.

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