Congratulations, you’re expecting a baby!
The most common question is “I am pregnant, can I still keep my cat?” The answer is of course you can. All you need is a little time and patience and to make a few changes to your lifestyle.
If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably heard of toxoplasmosis because it can cause serious birth defects. However, toxoplasmosis is quite rare and is one that can easily be avoided. While the disease-causing parasite can be found in the faeces of cats who ingest raw meat, birds, mice, or contaminated soil, toxoplasmosis is more commonly found in uncooked or undercooked meat and vegetables that haven’t been washed properly.
If you’re concerned about a possible exposure, ask your obstetrician to perform a simple blood test. If the result shows you were exposed to toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, you may be given medication and your baby may be tested and treated soon after birth. Keep in mind that the odds of contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy are extremely low and even lower for your baby. Being pregnant does not mean you have to give up living with and caring for your beloved cat. Toxoplasmosis is easily avoided by practicing good hygiene and responsible pet care. Just follow these simple steps to reduce the risk:
- Avoid handling or eating uncooked meat.
- Be certain to wash all cutting boards and utensils that may have come in contact with meat before using them to prepare other foods.
- Keep your cat safely indoors and away from wildlife.
- Have someone else clean the litter box daily.
- If you must clean the litter box, wear rubber gloves and thoroughly wash your hands afterward.
- Feed cats only commercially prepared cat food.
How Will My Cat React?
No matter how much you plan ahead, the addition of a new family member may be difficult for your cat. Remember, they were your first “baby” and are used to being the centre of your attention. So it’s understandable that she may experience something akin to sibling rivalry when you introduce a new human baby into your household.
You can minimize this feeling by working with her before you bring home your baby. For example, because your new baby will demand a lot of your time and energy, gradually accustom your cat to spending less time with you. Drastically decreasing attention and frequently scolding, ignoring, or isolating your cat after the baby comes home will likely make your cat feel stressed. If your cat is particularly attached to the mother-to-be, another family member should develop a closer relationship with the animal. That way, the cat can still feel loved and provided for while mom is busy with the baby.
How Can I Prepare My Cat?
Below are several suggestions to make introducing your cat and baby safer and smoother for all. Be sure to carry out these changes months before the baby’s arrival to best prepare your cat.
- Take your cat to the veterinarian for a routine health exam and necessary vaccinations.
- Spay or neuter your cat. If you have adopted your cat from a shelter they will have already been desexed. Not only do sterilised cats typically have fewer health problems associated with their reproductive systems, but they are also calmer and less likely to bite.
- Consult with a veterinarian and paediatrician if the thought of your newborn interacting with the family cat makes you uncomfortable. By working with these experts before your baby is born, you can resolve problems early and put your mind at ease.
- If your cat’s behaviour includes pouncing, or swatting at you and others, redirect that behaviour to appropriate objects.
- Get your cat used to nail trims.
- Train your cat to remain calmly on the floor beside you until you invite him on your lap, which will soon cradle a newborn.
- Encourage friends with infants to visit your home to accustom your cat to babies. Supervise all cat and infant interactions.
- Accustom your cat to baby-related noises months before the baby is expected. For example, play recordings of a baby crying, turn on the mechanical infant swing, and use the rocking chair.
- To discourage your cat from jumping on the baby’s crib and changing table, apply double-stick tape to the furniture.
- If the baby’s room will be off-limits to your cat, install a sturdy barrier like a screen door. Because these barriers still allow your cat to see and hear what’s happening in the room, he’ll feel less isolated from the family and more comfortable with the new baby noises.
- Use a baby doll to help your cat get used to the real thing. Carry around a swaddled baby doll, take the doll in the stroller when you walk your dog, and use the doll to get your cat used to routine baby activities, such as bathing and diaper changing.
- Talk to your cat about the baby, using the baby’s name if you’ve selected one.
- Sprinkle baby powder or baby oil on your skin so your cat becomes familiar with the new smells.
- Finally, plan ahead to make sure your cat gets proper care while you’re at the birthing centre.
What Do We Do After Baby Is Born?
Welcoming a new baby is exciting for your family. Remember when you first brought home your cat? But before you bring your baby home from the hospital, have your partner or friend take home something with the baby’s scent (such as a blanket) for your cat to investigate.
When you return from the hospital, your cat may be eager to greet you and receive your attention. Have someone else take the baby into another room while you give your cat a warm, but calm, welcome.
After the initial greeting, you can bring your cat with you to sit next to the baby. Remember, you want your cat to view associating with the baby as a positive experience. To prevent anxiety or injury, never force your cat to get near the baby, and always supervise any interaction.
Life will no doubt be hectic caring for your new baby, but try to maintain regular routines as much as possible to help your cat adjust. And be sure to spend one-on-one quality time with your cat each day—it may help relax you, too.
If you have undertaken the preparation detailed above, the cat will hopefully not be too averse to the new arrival. With proper training, supervision, and adjustments, you, your new baby, and your cat should be able to live together safely and happily as one (now larger) family. Installing plug-in Feliway diffusers at various points in the home, particularly areas associated with the baby, should help to provide reassurance. You may also win them over by offering their favoured food which is not normally available.
Some cats become more concerned about children when they are mobile than when they are tiny babies. A crawling or toddling child can take a cat by surprise and his or her squeals and shrieks can be frightening for a feline. Providing places of retreat for the cat is even more important at this stage.
Finally, children should never be brought up, even inadvertently, to view pets as playthings. From the outset they must be taught to respect the cat, to approach and handle him appropriately and well because ultimately there are so many benefits and pleasures to be derived from growing up in a family with a well-adjusted companion animal.
**Please note we are not veterinarians and the above is for informational purposes only, if you are concerned about your cat please contact your vet immediately