Cats and Babies

Guest Blogger: Chanellie (with help from Human Mom Chris Whyle, Behavior Wellness Coordinator)
Here I am again, your Special Cat Friend Chanellie, to present you with some Crunchy Treats of Wisdom (Pearls just don’t do anything for me) about Cats and Babies.

My Human Mom (MHM) told me a very sad story that happened recently in our area, about a family dog who attacked a newborn baby in the family home.  If I could cry, I would have, but instead my whiskers drooped for several days.  But it made me think of how I would feel if a baby human suddenly appeared in my home.

I am a cat, and I am happiest when each day is exactly the same as the day before–the furniture remains in the same place, my human’s schedule is predictable, and the food appears in my bowl when I expect it.  Any deviation from my expectations causes my whiskers to ruffle.  But MHM tells me “change is inevitable” (who says!!!!) and I need to accept that premise, extend my horizons, see the good in different, blah blah blah.  I disagree.

But since I live with humans, and enjoy my life of leisure and the yummy kibble that magically flows into my bowl twice a day, I’ve come up with Rule #2 in Chanellie’s Book of Rules to deal with change.

Chanellie’s Rule #2:  Change is only OK when it is done gradually.

Whether it involves a different brand of litter, a different flavor of food, the mysterious movement of furniture throughout the house, the unexplainable (and terrifying) appearance of The Cat Carrier in the living room (OMG, who’s destined for The Vet???!!!), a new four-legged intruder in my domain (Aaarrrgh!!!), or a new little human in my midst, I need time to adjust.  To accept.  To get used to.

MHM has told me stories of family cats who were surrendered to the shelter where she worked just because a new little human had arrived.  Oh, oh, oh—my tail is at half-mast at that sad thought.  Especially because Rule #2 would make this situation so very preventable!

We cats are creatures of scent, of sound, and cherish the territory we’ve claimed (although we are quite good at the concept of “time-share!”).  So when a cute little human is anticipated, new parents need to consider what new sounds, sights, and smells will enter my previously pristine environment.  (MHM is rolling her eyes at the word “pristine.”  I must admit I’m not a neat-freak, but every hair-ball I cough up is precisely placed.)

New Baby Scents . . . OK, the first thing that comes to my feline mind is diaper doo-dees, the odor of which is not easy to replicate.  But baby powder, baby lotion, formula (mmm, mmm, mmmm!), pulverized peas and carrots (I feel a hair-ball coming up), are brand new smells that I’ve heretofore not experienced.  Begin several months in advance by introducing me to these new scents.  Smooth some baby lotion on your hands; sprinkle a little baby powder on your lap (where I love to nap); apply both to a spare washcloth, toss it into a room and ignore it (I’ll find it, don’t worry).  After a while, pair the new scents with something I love—crunchy cat treats are a great start!!!  I sniff the washcloth, and underneath the new smell is a familiar one that I cannot resist!  My favorite crunchy cat treats!  New Smell=Very Pleasurable Experience!  Warning: do not sprinkle the baby powder directly on my yummies!

New Baby Sounds . . . a crying baby sometimes sounds exactly like a cat in distress. MHM has been fooled many times in the shopping center parking lot, and is always So Very Relieved that it is not a stray kitty in need of assistance.  Believe it or not, if you type “Baby Crying Sound Effects” into your search engine you will find a website that allows you to download many of these sounds for free.  MHM just played a couple and all of the homie-cats were instantly on Yellow Alert!  Once or twice a day, introduce these sounds into your home environment.  Pair the sounds with something yummy.  Baby Crying Sound Effect=Very Pleasurable Experience!  After a while I will get used to those Weird New Sounds and, in fact, look forward to them, as every time I hear them I get something Very Yummy.  Warning: Don’t overdo the rewards or you’ll need to buy me a Fitness Club Membership!

The Real Thing . . . do you have a friend with a Real Human Baby?  After you’ve gotten me used to smells and sounds, invite her over for CatSip and kibble—oops, tea and cookies.  Please don’t stick the baby in my face—just ignore me and let me investigate (or not—I may find this Little Intruder too scary and find a place to hide) at my leisure. Toss me a treat now and then.  Baby In The House=Very Pleasurable Experience! Please don’t let the baby grab my ears or tail—after all, I need to see this Brand New Creature as friend, not foe!  If you don’t have a friend with a newborn, there are many dolls that are remarkably realistic, and you can pretty much duplicate the New Human Baby experience with one of them.  Warning:  Clip My Claws before a Baby Visit, and always supervise closely any interaction!  Don’t assume I will accept the baby immediately—Rule #2!!!!!

You’re Changing My Space . . . redecorating is NOT my favorite occurrence.  It is Change—and I’ve made myself pretty clear about how I feel about Change.  If my favorite room is about to become The Nursery, please preserve My Favorite Place in the room, whether it be the back of a favorite chair by the window or a warm cat bed by the heat register.  If the New Baby Place will be Off Limits to me, you can duplicate My Favorite Place in another room, but remember Rule #2!  There are reasons I choose My Favorite Places!  Make sure the view from the new window is as exciting as My Favorite View (if not, add a bird feeder!).  Put yourself in my perspective.  Look at the world through my eyes (believe me, it’s a totally different world down here!!!).  It will give you lots of practice in understanding what your small new human baby perceives in her world and how to “baby-proof” our home!

I’m Missing Your Loving Attention . . . New Human Babies take a lot of time and doting.  Please don’t forget that I am your baby, too.  Carve some time out of your busy schedule for lap-time, snuggles and interactive play.  I can become your new arrival’s Best Friend In The World if you include me in her world.  Mention my name when you are talking to her.  Even if your arms are full of baby and you can’t pet me when I ask, acknowledge me and tell me you love me.  I’ll understand.

Teach Your Children Well . . . how to handle fuzzy four-legged family members.  No ear- or tail-grabbing; when I’m sleeping do not disturb me; don’t stick your face or hands in my food, water, or toys; don’t chase me; use our “indoor voices” when I’m around; pet with a flat hand and always ask, first.  And mom, always give me a safe retreat (a good bet is somewhere high, out of baby’s reach) if the rules are ignored. From my perspective, Small Humans change frequently and pose new experiences for a cat. Baby’s First Step is applauded by mom and dad, but a baby who can toddle around is a different creature than one who is confined to a crib.  A toddler who can’t reach the cat on the end table grows into one who can.  Continual Cat Education is a good thing!

Whew—I’m exhausted.  But one more thing: beware of common myths about cats and babies.  One persistent falsehood is that cats can steal the breath from babies.  The truth of the matter is that we just like the smell of formula on baby’s lips.  You know—like when I smell your lips after you’ve eaten something very yummy.  Oh—you thought I was kissing you?  Yes, I most certainly was—ignore the previous sentence!

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