Cat Safety for Babies and Children
If you've currently got a cat and are soon to have a new baby in the family, or if you're thinking of getting a pet, it's important to consider how babies and cats will interact. Many families with cats have no problems at all, but from a safety point of view, do babies and young children get on with cats?
Change in BehaviourWhen you've had a cat for a while, suddenly introducing a new member of the family, in the form of a tiny baby, can be unsettling to their normal routine. After all, they're a part of the family, too. Introducing A New Baby To Your Pet Dog can be a relatively simple affair, but cats seem to be more resistant and there have been a small number of incidences where cats have accidentally smothered a baby by sleeping in the pram.
Cats are very sensitive animals and they're territorial, so a new baby in their space upsets what their routine. There are new smells and sounds, people will be spending more time in the house, and the cat may not be allowed in certain rooms anymore.
Some cats react by retreating off on their own, disappearing outside, into a quiet room or a quiet space they can find. Other cats act a bit stroppy, insisting on trying to get into the rooms they've always used! Some cats may start excessively grooming themselves and may also reassert their rights by changing from facial gland marking to urine spraying - not pleasant with a baby around.
How to Minimise DisruptionTo minimise disruption for your cat, it's helpful to prepare for the new arrival in advance. For example:
- Get the cat used to not going in certain rooms, for example where the nursery will be.
- Set aside one room where you can play with the cat and have quality time with it, away from the baby. Start doing this before the baby arrives, to get your cat used to it.
- Many cats dislike the sound of crying babies. As crying is likely to become the norm in your house, you'll need to get your cat used to it. Try playing a CD of crying, while stroking your cat and comforting him.
- Teach the cat not to sit in the pram.
- If you haven't already got one, consider buying the cat a climbing centre, perhaps with a box at the top, so the cat is kept amused and has somewhere to jump up into if he feels the need to hide away.
Bringing Baby HomeWhen you first bring your baby home, be aware of your cat's needs and feelings. Don't constantly remove the cat from the room, but be happy for him to watch and observe the new situation. Include your cat in what's going on by talking to him or giving him a treat.
Treats for cats work well when you're feeding your baby, as it keeps the cat happy and lets him know you're thinking of him, too. If the cat tries to crawl on your lap when you're feeding, firmly remove him and encourage him to sit next to you instead.
Pram safety and cot safety is important and you may find a cat net beneficial. Cats love warm areas and prams and cots can seem appealing! But on rare occasions cats have been known to suffocate babies if they get in on top of them, so discourage your cat from climbing into the pram or cot.
Health-wise, cats are generally safe to have around. Children can get flea bites, so it's important to keep your cat flea-free. And remember to have basic hygiene rules, like not letting your cat lick your baby's face.
Buying a CatIf you're thinking of Buying A Pet and already have a family, then it's still important to ensure that your new cat gets on with your children. Before you go ahead and buy a cat, check:
- The cat has no record of aggression.
- Whether the cat is known not to get on with children.
- If it's a kitten, consider the practicalities of training it.
First impressions are important and could indicate how well your children will get on with the cat, so taking them to see it before you make a final decision is really helpful. If your children don't feel comfortable with the cat, shy away from it or won't go near it, then you'll have to think again. Likewise, if the cat seems to react badly to your children, it may not be the right cat for you.