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Helping Your Cat Adjust to a New Baby

As creatures of habit, cats don't welcome changes in their environment. Even the slightest alteration can upset them. No wonder then that the arrival of a new baby or a new person into your home has the potential to cause behavioral problems in your cat.

The key to helping your cat adjust to the new arrival is preparation and patience. When setting up the baby's room, for example, let your cat in to visit and sniff the new furnishings. The more opportunity she has to become acquainted with the room and its smells, the sooner she'll adapt when the baby actually arrives. If the baby will be at the hospital for a couple of days, take one of the unwashed blankets or sleepers home for your cat to check out. The scent of this new family member won't be so unfamiliar when the baby arrives in the house.

The same principle applies to any new person. If you have a new close friend or significant other who will be spending a great deal of time with you and your cat, see if you can borrow an unwashed shirt or scarf for your cat to familiarize herself with. When the new person materializes, ask them not to push themselves on your cat. Give her time to adjust to simply having the person in the same room with her. Let any overtures of friendliness come from your cat first; the new person should then reward her with a special treat.

Most importantly, take special care to give your cat extra attention at this time. She will be quick to take notice -- and to take offense -- if you ignore her at the expense of someone new and exciting. Instead, make sure to have special playtime with her when it's just the two of you. And also lavish her with attention when the new person is present, so she doesn't associate that person with being ignored by you. When she understands that you're not deserting her, and when she starts to enjoy the love and attention from the new person, your cat will take all the change in stride.