One of the questions we get a lot is about how our two cats responded to Jaxon when we brought him home.
Indigo we have had since she was 2 months old as a rescue kitten. We suspect that she is a German Nebelung (long hair breed). She was our first baby and has been with us nearly as long as our relationship (8 years). She is super affectionate and we often get told by non-cat-people that she is the only cat they like. She loves her own space as much as she loves a cuddle and she can be quite feisty when she wants to be.
Pablo is a different story. This little red point ragdoll (long hair breed) we adopted him after his owner (a family friend) abandoned him in the street after a failed relationship. We saw him when my mum was looking after him intermittently and straight away knew we had to take him in.
He is a big softy and will curly up with you on the couch in the evenings. He will also chew the front door weather strip until you let him out at 4am and howl if you try and ignore him! He is a greedy-guts and often tries to steal Indigo’s food – no wonder he weighs in at a cool 6.34kgs!!! 2kgs heavier than Indigo but he is clearly scared of her, ha!
There is something to be said about the shift that occurs when you have a baby. Your love for your pets remains but the thing that changes is that they are no longer your babies they are just pets. There is a reduced need to pat and cuddle them, not only because you would have to wash your hands all day long (which you are doing anyways with a newborn) but also because your focus and priority changes to your baby.
You may be sitting there reading that and thinking, yeah right, Fido will always be my baby. But just you wait!
Don’t be fooled, animals are very intuitive when it comes to pregnancy and babies. Pablo having come from the streets used to be quite stand-off-ish and curling up with you on the couch was a rare treat.
Once I was pregnant, he became very close and would often try and nestle himself on my belly. Indigo who was already super affectionate was also starting to follow me around the house.
We knew that once baby arrived, we would have less time for the cats and we hoped that they would not fall into the cliché of jealous cat.
When it came to introducing the cats to Jaxon we made sure to do it at a slower pace as we wanted to ease them into the fact that there was a new, loud and smelly person in their territory.
Cats are very territorial creatures.
We reverted back to when we first brought Pablo home. Indigo was at the time, a super territorial cat. Afterall, she had been the only animal for 5 years and so bringing home a cat 2kgs bigger than her and expecting them to get along was a challenge.
So, how did we introduce Jax to our fur-babies? Read on!
Let it happen naturally – Don’t make a big deal about it
When I first walked into the house after my 3-day hospital stay I was quite disoriented. I had a newborn in my arms and a lot going through my head, “where do I put him?” “where are the cats,” “is it too hot, cold, bright in here?”
The cats could clearly sense my confusion and they both started fighting and hissing at each other which is really out of character. We let them outside as we got settled in with Jax.
When I was more comfortable at home, we let the cats inside and fed them – its important to let them know that this new little person is not a threat to their food source.
They walked around the house carefully and smelled the air, my hospital bag in the hallway and my clothes. Then went and sat in their normal spots in the loungeroom.
We didn’t make a huge deal of putting the baby in their face and jumping up and down. We acted normal and didn’t pay any attention to the fact that I had been gone for a few days.
Usually, if I had not seen them for a while, I would give them a good pat and play but I wanted to act like nothing had happened. The fact that they could smell the baby was the first step and I didn’t want to overwhelm them.
A few days passed and they started to get more curious. Afterall, a few nights and they could not only smell baby but they could hear him, all through the night! We tried not to chase them out of the room when they came to investigate and let them in and out of the house as they needed.
To be honest, we expected not to see them for a few days when we got home. We were surprised to find that they hung out in their normal spots and their inside/outside time didn’t change too much.
The first time that they really got a good look at Jaxon was when I decided to breastfeed on the couch. One by one they jumped on the couch next to me, sniffed Jaxon’s head and then gave me a kitty bump on the arm. They then jumped down and went about their cat business. It was a really nice moment and I believe it happened so calmly because we did not force the issue or try and introduce them before they were ready.
Re-train Their Habits Before Bringing Baby Home
As soon as I found out I was pregnant we trained the cats off sleeping on our bed. We would have to get up in the night and push them off the bed, close the door when we left the house and they were inside and chuck them outside by the scruff of the neck when required. After 8 years for Indigo and 3 years for Pablo sleeping on our bed, this was not an easy task. But with persistence and consistency we were able to fix this bad habit by about the 6-month mark.
We also did the same with the nursery. They were not allowed to enter the nursery and when they were home, I would leave the door open on purpose to be able to show them that the door can be open and they are still not allowed in. I once found Pablo asleep on the baby’s change table and I don’t think he knew what hit him when I grabbed him by the scruff and put him outside. That was the first and last time that happened.
It wasn’t easy but we are really glad we stuck with it because it made the safety factor really easy with Jax. We know that if he is asleep in the cot (nursery) or the bassinet (our bedroom) that the cats will not go near him. Of course, we are still really aware of where the cats are in the house and if they start towards the room Jax is in they get redirected or put outside.
Bring Baby Down to Their Level
We often have Jaxon in the bouncer on the floor in the lounge where the cats hang out and while they may sit next to his bouncer, they know not to go near him. They do watch him and are curious but because he is not up high, they don’t feel the need to jump up. I would only ever suggest you do this if your pet has a calm temperament and you can control the situation. I would be careful with dogs in this fashion as they are way jumpier and more excitable.
If the cats come up to me when I am holding Jax I make an effort to kneel down and let them smell him. They are usually satisfied with this and walk away. Patting them while I am on the couch breastfeeding is another way to tell them that they are not being forgotten. I keep the hand sanitizer nice and close.
Make Sure a Secondary Person is Present to Intervene if Required
We made sure that when we first let the cats close to the baby one of us would hold Jax and the other would be right next to the cat ready to grab them if they tried to have a swipe. We were really fortunate that this never happened but just anticipating any bad behavior and having a back up person means that you are likely calmer in the situation.
A calm you means a calm baby and a calm animal. Calmness is key in this task.
I think it is very important to assess what kind of temperament your cats have before you bring baby home. We were always quite worried that Pablo would be too friendly and try and get in the crib with Jax or that Indigo would disappear for a few days sulking but we were pleasantly surprised when both cats went about their business and didn’t seem to care about the new arrival once they got used to the smells and crying and shift of affection.
It’s important to have a plan on how you will introduce them and to set up boundaries before you give birth. Discussing this with your partner is paramount so you are both on the same page and can work together to set up boundaries – no point you telling the cat off for being on the bed if your partner doesn’t follow through with this as well.
Now that Jax is older he has started to notice them more and we are teaching him from a very young age to be gentle with them by allowing him to reach out and pat them. If he goes for a smack (as babies like to do) we end the interaction and do something else.
I hope that these tips help you introduce your furbabies to your new arrival.
Have you got any questions about introducing your cats to your baby? I’d love to hear from you!