Expecting a baby? Follow our behaviourist's advice about preparing your cat for a new arrival.
(Q) We're expecting and I'm worried about how this will affect my 11-year-old female cat. She sleeps with me in bed at night and has done since she was a kitten, but friends tell me that this will have to stop when the baby comes. How can I help her adapt to our new arrival?
Behaviourist Francesca Riccomini suggests: Cats need predictability and a sense of control to be happy. If your cat has never been socialized with babies and young children, you will need to get her used to their smells and noises, and give her lots of high places that she can safely watch from. Place treats in those locations so she has positive associations with them.
The environment is very important in providing the conditions for cats to adjust to stressful changes. Work out what routines you will be able to keep up with your cat once the baby arrives. For example, many new parents can still schedule a playtime in the evening, or you could substitute this for a calm grooming session or just time to spend together. Establish this routine now so she has some continuity.
If you need your cat to adapt to a new night-time regime, start this now too. Rather than just shutting her out of the bedroom you could, for example, initially avoid cuddling or petting her, then provide a nice cosy bed and place it near yours, gradually moving it out of the room.
You can use Feliway to help create a reassuring environment. Or you could just decide where she should sleep longer term and put her in there with Feliway, a nice bed and a delicious treat. You must make sure she's safe and comfortable, then if she tries to attract your attention avoid the temptation to respond.
Start closing any doors you will have to keep shut when your baby is in the house and reduce the impact of new baby items by putting them in a closed room and bringing them out one at a time. Make them smell less challenging by rubbing a cloth over your cat's face and then on the new items.
Also get a good quality recording of baby noises (look out for those designed for dogs!) and play it at low volume when nice things are happening. Although most cats are perfectly safe around children, never leave your cat unattended with young children or babies - for both the children's and the cat's sake!