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Ask the Doctor February 2020 Issue

Dear Doctor: Readying a cat for the new arrival

Q. I am about to have a baby and wonder how that will affect my 6-year-old cat. My husband and I have had her since she was a kitten. Anything I should know or do in advance?

Susan O’Keefe

Marshfield, Massachusetts

Dear Ms. O’Keefe,

A. First, congratulations! Second, some cats are very mellow about new arrivals, but others do not acclimate easily to change. While you are pregnant, you might want to play tapes of baby noises to get your pet used to the sounds she’s about to hear frequently. The ASPCA also suggests rubbing baby lotion on your hands before stroking her or engaging in some other nice activity so she associates the scent with pleasant interactions. Also, if your husband is going to take over some of the responsibilities for your pet after the baby arrives — feeding, grooming, and so on — make the switch now. That way, the change won’t be yet another thing your pet will have to adjust to when the time comes.

Once you and your new little one get home from the hospital, greet your cat in a quiet room without interruption. Grandparents and others can wait just a few minutes so you can let your pet have that time with you. In addition, place a receiving blanket or other material with your baby’s scent in a quiet spot so the pet can investigate with her nose.

Finally, never leave your baby and your cat alone together when the baby is sleeping or might fall asleep. A newborn cannot turn over or move her head away, and if the cat decides she wants to snuggle up against the baby for warmth, it can create breathing difficulties for your child. Certainly, keep the door closed when the baby is napping in her crib. That will also prevent the cat from urinating in the crib, which she might do if she feels particularly stressed by the new arrival.

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