Many people are naturally concerned about how the arrival of a new baby will affect the behaviour of their cat. The good news is that cats and babies can live very happily together provided you plan well in advance and respect the needs of your cat.
- Make changes to routine in advance – if you're no longer going to allow your cat to enter certain rooms or sleep on your bed, start making those changes now.
- Create a barrier to the baby's room or cot – cats love sleeping somewhere warm and high and nothing is cosier than a babies cot! If you're worried about your cat jumping into the cot, you can install a screen door – this way you can still see and hear your baby, but puss can't access the room. A tall baby gate may also do the job, but some cats may still jump over this.
- Allow your cat to smell the new smells associated with the baby, such as powder and wipes, well in advance.
- Make sure flea and worm control is up to date. A check up by your vet is a good idea while you have the time.
- Trim claws in advance of your baby arriving.
- If possible, obtain a recording of a baby crying then play it regularly at home. This will help your cat get used to the new sounds prior to the arrival of the real thing.
- Send home a blanket from the hospital that has your baby's smell on it in advance, so puss has time to get used to the new smell.
- When you bring your baby home, don't force the introduction. Cats like to do things in their own time. Ideally have someone hold the baby while you give your cat lots of attention.
- You want puss to think of baby as a positive addition, so when your baby is around try to get someone to give your cat some attention. If he/she likes food, then give lots of favourite treats. This way the baby starts to become a good thing in the eyes of your cat.
- Always allow puss to escape if he/she wants. Cats don't respond well to being pushed into circumstances they're uncomfortable with, so make sure he/she always has somewhere to run to and feel safe.
- Stick to some kind of routine if possible – it's the change in routine and all the new smells that tend to upset cats, so try to stick to regular feeding times if possible. Try your hardest to find some time in the day to give your cat some individual attention – this is important to help your cat feel like he/she is still an important member of the family.
Dr Katrina Warren is a popular TV vet, best-selling author, newspaper columnist, speaker and mum.