Before the Baby

You can begin to help your cat adjust to the new addition before the baby arrives.

By Jessie Tucker Mitchell

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If the cat and mother-to-be are particularly close, encourage another household member to develop a close relationship with your cat, so it continues to feel loved while Mom redirects most of her attention toward the child. Switch any cat-care routines that Mom must relinquish, such as feedings, grooming and playing, as soon as possible.

Set Boundaries
Set up nursery furniture early so your cat can investigate and see that it is not scary or threatening. Only then should certain pieces, such as the crib and changing table, be declared off-limits. Cover these surfaces with double-sided adhesive tape or a floor mat turned upside-down with the prickly part up, to make them unwelcoming.

If your pet will never be allowed in the nursery, install a sturdy barrier, such as a removable gate or screen door. These barriers allow your cat to see and hear what's happening in the room, so it feels less isolated from your family.

Get Familiar
Jeff Werber, DVM, a nationally renowned veterinarian in Los Angeles, suggests that parents invite friends with infants to visit. This allows your cat to become familiar with these small, noisy humans. However, be choosy about which children are allowed in the house, because some children could make the experience more negative than positive for your cat.

Amy Dicke, DVM, a technical services veterinarian for consumer care with the Iams Co. in Dayton, Ohio, recommends playing a tape of baby sounds. Play it on low volume, gradually increasing the volume each day over a period of a few weeks, so the cats can get used to this new and unusual sound, Dicke says. Several companies sell CDs of baby noises.

Keep It Positive
Besides new sounds, your cat faces new smells when the baby comes home. Many professionals recommend that you rub baby lotion, powder or oil on your skin before enjoyable interactions with your cat. This creates a positive association with baby smells.

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Before the Baby

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Melissa    Ridgeway, VA

12/29/2008 4:31:17 PM

It's all pretty obvious. I could have written that, and much more eloquently.

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