Cats and Kids – a True Love-Story
As long-term Cats Protection employees, the feline contingent of our home is, as you might imagine, something of a motley crew. We have Episkey, a thirteen year old tabby and white male who had mobility issues as a kitten, taken on by my husband, Phil, long before he was my husband; Fenton, a fifteen year old black and white moggy, an archetypal independent gentleman with no teeth; Stoat, a three year old ginger and white boy who came to live with Phil, as a semi-feral long-stayer; and Mouse, a tiny two year old boy, named because of his size and looks as a kitten.
When Phil and I discovered I was pregnant, we worried about how the boys would react to the addition of a tiny human to our quiet home. At Axhayes, pretty much every day we get calls from people wanting to, or thinking they ought to put their cats up for adoption because there’s a baby on the way. In most cases, it’s a heart-breaking decision. However, with a bit of planning and foresight, you can make the change easier on your pets. It might not work out in every case, but pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to say goodbye to your feline friends.
Here’s what we did:
1. It is important to know that as long as you wear gloves when cleaning and disinfecting litter trays, and empty them regularly, there is no need to part with your cat. (Even better, ask a family member to do it for you!) Go to: https://catsprotection.sharepoint.com/sites/catnav/cp/CP/Documents/Communications/Media – other downloads/Pregnant cat owners – factsheet.doc
2. We put Feliway plug-in diffusers throughout the house to help create a calm environment for our cats. Go to: https://catsprotection.sharepoint.com/sites/catnav/catcare/Pages/Ceva-Feliway-Products-.aspx.
3. We let the cats see, and, more importantly, smell the Moses basket, the clothes, the pack of nappies etc, as we bought them in preparation. This was so that they were familiar sights to the boys, so it wasn’t so much of a shock for them when baby and I came home from hospital.
4. It is an old wives’ tale that cats sit on babies and smother them. Stoat jumped in the Moses basket out of curiosity before our baby, Kafka, arrived, but as soon as he saw that Kafka was sleeping there and the bed was taken, he stopped. If you are concerned, shut the bedroom door.
5. Something our boys have in common is that they are nervous around new people, and are scared of loud noises. Again, it’s the ‘softly, softly’ approach that you need to take.
Unlike humans, smell is a cat’s primary sense. Kakfa had to stay in hospital in an incubator for a week before we were able to take him home. The nurses gave us little tied muslins to sleep with and then put in with Kafka so he could smell us and know us (scent-swapping works with humans as well as cats – who knew?!) so each day, Phil took one that Kafka had slept with, home so that the boys could smell him and start to know him, so that he would be familiar to them when he arrived home. Once home, we kept Kafka upstairs for a couple of days when we were at home, so that the boys would get used to his crying, and adjust to the fact that there was a new member of the family.
6. Probably the most important thing – make a fuss of your cat/cats. Don’t ignore them, or push them away. Show them that you love them too.
And, touch wood, it worked! A cat’s innate curiosity helped too – they all wanted to see the tiny loud thing that had joined our family! Stoat started sitting by us first – he was a bit jealous that there was someone else on Phil’s lap – but when we made a fuss of him too, and he realised that Kafka wasn’t a threat to him, he was fine. Fenton has surprized me the most, though. He’ll come and sit next to Kafka now, and sit on his play mat with him. If Kafka kicks his legs or gets a bit loud, Fenton will move to the end of the bed, but he soon comes back!
Kafka is eight months old now, and it is up to us to make sure he respects the cats as they respect him. We’re teaching him to be gentle when he goes to stroke them.
Phil and I both grew up with cats and we know that they can be a child’s best friend. Saying hello to your new baby doesn’t mean that you have to say goodbye to your feline friend.
Now all we have to worry about is teaching Kafka that although Mouse and Stoat are cats, mice and stoats aren’t!