Many years before having our son Lucas, my husband and I adopted our cats, Edgar and Basil.
Our cats are mellow, and they’ve enjoyed the quiet of our home.
Alllll that changed once Lucas was born. We knew it would be a huge adjustment for them, and really started to plan for introducing the new baby to them. Their entire world was about to be disrupted by a tiny human that needs constant attention— their days of cat nip every day and warm milk in a dish were numbered.
When we brought our baby home, we let the cats first smell his blankets and clothing to get used to his scent. We then put our newborn in his infant seat and let the cats approach and smell him at their own pace. The transition went really, exceptionally well.
I should note, we were even more concerned because both of our cats have feline herpes. You heard me. While it’s not quite as gross as it sounds, it still sucks. Edgar initially had it, and transmitted it to Basil. Thankfully, they can’t transmit to humans. Essentially, when they get stressed they get eye infections that require an expensive ointment. If you’ve never put ointment into a cat’s eye before, count yourself lucky. So, #firstworldcatproblems, I have to worry about my cats being STRESSED. HA. We painted our living room once, and it stressed our cats out so badly that they were both running around with eye infections (our vet told us any small change can trigger it.) Thankfully, bringing our baby home didn’t stress them out and we were eye-herpie free.
When we put our son in his nursery to sleep for the first time (around 8 weeks old,) we made sure to keep the cats out until they understood that they were NOT allowed in the crib. Until we were comfortable with the cats in the nursery, we had a baby gate up that was too high for them to jump over. To this day, we’ve only had a cat jump into the crib once (and I think it scared him so badly that he’ll never do it again.)
One of our cats, Basil, does like to push the nursery door open. We’ve (mostly) solved this problem by spraying him with a squirt bottle when it does it.
BUT, more importantly, now that our son is old enough to understand the word “no” we are teaching him to be gentle with the pets. We never allow him to chase them, tug at them, or get in their faces. I have let Lucas pet the cats with an open hand and tell him to be “soft”.
Our animals are gentle animals. But they are animals. If provoked, they will likely revert back to their instinctual cat selves and hiss or scratch if they feel threatened.
When I see photos of small children pulling on dogs, or up in their faces, I instantly get anxious.
No matter how much you love and trust your pet, keeping your child safe is your first priority. Animals are unpredictable, and whether you think you know your pet or not, it takes a split second for their demeanor to change.
Here are some basic guidelines that we abide by with our pets, and with other pets that our son is around:
- Make sure all pets have had the proper veterinary care. Keep your pets healthy, and keep their nails short to avoid scratching.
- Do not leave your pet unattended with your child.
- Do not allow pets to cuddle with infants that are not old enough to move away if they are being smothered. (We don’t allow our 9 month old to cuddle with our cats anyway.)
- Pets can be extremely dirty. Keep your animals clean. Don’t allow them to get into the habit of licking or putting their paws on your child (especially their face.) Our cats use litter boxes, and for that reason I try to keep Lucas from touching their paws.
- Keep animal things out of reach of your baby (food, medications, litter, etc.)
- Start teaching your child as soon as possible not to provoke animals, and that they should always be handled gently.
- Keep large animals from sprinting through your household and injuring your child in the process. (I’ve been hurt more than once by a large dog that is too rambunctious.)
- If all else fails, keep your animals contained to a part of the house that your children are not in until they can be properly socialized.
The ASPCA has some great resources on co-mingling babies with cats and dogs. The Humane Society also offers some great advice.
I’m a huge animal lover, and as such, I want my family to be a cohesive unit where our son can hang out freely with our pets. Precautions are key to avoiding issues and injury. Know that this is an adjustment for all of you, and that it sometimes just takes time and understanding.
It’s so, so hard trying to introduce babies to pets. We had our two cats for about three years. We brought home our LO and they never adjusted. When she was able to be more mobile and requiring even more supervision, they began acting out, having accidents all over the house, throwing up. It was awful. We just couldn’t give them the attention they needed anymore and they didn’t like that. We eventually had to make the decision to rehouse them and it was terrible. Luckily the home we found has been a perfect fit and she gives us constant updates. It was so hard making that choice but the safety of our LO always has to come first! Great article!