Expecting a newborn child is one of the most exciting times of a parent’s life. Good parents will want to take every precaution to make sure their baby is born healthy and stays that way. In considering changes to made in the household with the new arrival, concerns may arise pertaining to the family cat. Let’s talk about those concerns and what can be done to alleviate them.
Toxoplasmosis and Litter Box Duties
One of the concerns frequently raised about having a cat in the home when you’re expecting is the risk of a disease known as toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can pose a threat to an unborn fetus if the expectant mother is infected with the disease during her pregnancy. However, there are some easy solutions to minimize that risk.
Toxoplasmosis is passed through the feces of infected cats. Cats are only contagious for a few days when first infected with the disease and infection is unlikely to occur if the cat lives indoors. To avoid potential exposure, pregnant women should avoid handling the litter box if possible. If another family member is not available to clean the litter box, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly when the task is completed. The litter box should be cleaned daily.
Preparing Your Cat for the New Baby
Your cat will need time to adjust to the changes in routine and environment that will occur when your new baby arrives. Set up the baby’s crib and other necessities well in advance of the birth and allow your cat access to explore the equipment.
The sounds and smells of a new baby can be disorienting for your cat also. Playing a recording with baby sounds will allow your cat to become familiar with many of the sounds. Wearing baby lotion on your own hands will get your cat used to that smell. The same is true with other lotions and/or powders you may be using for your new child.
Once the baby is born and before you introduce your cat to the new baby, allow your cat to investigate a blanket or item of clothing worn by the baby. This will serve as an introduction for your cat so the new scent will not overwhelm him once he actually meets the new baby.
Once the Baby Arrives
Your new baby should never be left untended with your cat. A curious cat can get too close to your child’s grasping fingers and your cat may react badly if your baby pulls the cat’s tail or otherwise hurts your cat.
It is a myth that a cat can steal the breath from a baby in a cradle. However, cats will seek out warm places to relax and may be attracted to the warmth of your baby’s body. Your baby may not have the physical ability to move away from your cat, resulting in suffocation.
Try not to change your cat’s routine more than needed. If possible, keep to your cat’s previous feeding schedule. Also, make sure your cat has a private place he can retreat to if things become a bit overwhelming and he needs some time alone. Most importantly, don’t forget to set aside a little time to spend alone with your cat. Otherwise, your cat may begin to feel left out and jealous.
Most cats will eventually come to accept a new baby in the home. With a little time, patience and supervision, your new baby can co-exist with your cat in a healthy and contented household.