Thursday, 20 September 2012

Cats and babies: do they mix?

When I was pregnant I was worried about how my 2 cats would cope with having a baby around the house. After nearly a year this is a summary of how the cats coped with: less attention, a newborn, lots of crying, hair pulling and crawling and how we have coped with cat litter, cat food, stressed cats and treating fleas.

Hello to my cats

We got our cats as kittens a few years ago from Celia Hammond Animal Trust. After a few months of hiding under the sofa they have gradually become more sociable and now they will jump on most people's laps whether they want it or not. One of them has a tendency to stress and has been in hospital a few times with a blocked bladder so we were worried about how they would cope with the new addition.


Bringing home baby

Advice on the internet says to bring home a blanket smelling of your baby to get cats used to their smell.  This might work if mum and baby are in hospital for a while, but for the majority of births this isn't practical. We used Feliway for a few weeks before my due date and put a cats herbal chill out liquid in their water before we brought Baby M home.

While curious about the new arrival they never came close enough to her that we had to move them away.  When she cried they either stayed away or stood by protectively.  It was like they instinctively knew she was small and defenseless.

You can buy nets to protect cots, moses baskets etc, but we never brought any. I think they were designed by people who don't have cats because I suspect they would get shredded quickly and provide no protection to a cat that wanted to cuddle up to a baby. My cats never tried to jump in the moses basket with Baby M, when it was empty on the other hand it was hard work keeping them out.

Getting used to baby

Nothing changed for a few months. The cats stayed away from baby and she stayed away from them. My husband gave the cats more attention and I gave them far less.  They cohabited happily. Only once did one of the cats try and sit on Baby M and that was when she was on the sofa mostly covered by a blanket so they didn't realise she was there.


On the move

When Baby M started to gain control over her movements she wanted to "stroke" the cats.  This normally consisted of yanking their fur. If anyone else tried this they would have got a scratch. Occasionally one of the cats would raise their paw, but they thought better of it. This didn't change when Baby M started crawling, although the cats spent more time outside escaping.

Crawling brought new problems: trying to eat cat food, playing in the water bowl and worrying about cat litter. I quickly found the only solution to this was keeping Baby M physically away (she has never responded as desired to being told "no"). This proved hardest with the water bowl which Baby M seemed magnetically drawn to (and still does). I make sure the bowl always has clean water and encourage water play in her own water container. This hasn't stopped Baby M playing with water, but at least when she does I don't need to worry as much.

Growing Up

At a year old I have to admit my baby is pretty much a little girl now. And I think the cats know it. Now when the Baby M gets the cats in a headlock (I think she is trying to give them a hug) they are less tolerant and for the first time they have scratched her. It was only a small scratch on her hand, but I don't want to risk anything worse. The cats stupidly wont keep away from Baby M, and she loves them. I'm not entirely sure what to do about it, but for now I keep moving Baby M away and hope she gets the message.


The Downside to Cats

While generally the cats have been great it hasn't all been perfect. The cats have shown some signs of stress by occasionally going to the toilet on the sofa, Baby M's playmat or piles of clothes.  I think this is their passive aggressive way of saying they aren't happy. Fortunately everything has been washable and they haven't done it for a few months.

The harder thing to deal with has been keeping on top of fleas. I have had the occasional flea bite in the past and they are incredibly itchy. The last thing I want is Baby M to have anything that causes her discomfort. Somehow our cats keep on picking up fleas, which we keep having to treat. This is an extra expense we don't really need, but can't be avoided.

For the past few years we have been using Frontline Flea Treatment which has proven effective, but expensive. I was recently given the opportunity to try Bob Martin FleaClear which uses the same active ingredient as Frontline but is cheaper. FlearClear is a spot on treatment that is easy to apply: you just open the pipette and apply to the back of the animals neck. 4 weeks later the cats are still flea free and I'm impressed. There is not a lot more I can say about the treatment. We applied it easily after Baby M had gone to bed so it would have a chance to be absorbed by the time she tried to rugby tackle them.

The Small Print

I was sent Bob Martin FleaClear to try for free. At £10.50 rrp for a pack of 3 treatments it is an effective treatment that I will buy in the future. You can find more about it on www.bobmartin.co.uk All words and thoughts above are my own.

These are their words:

Surprising facts about FleaClear:
·         You don’t need to go to a vets or pharmacy to buy FleaClear
·         It is available at all major supermarkets and pet retailers
·         A single treatment costs as little as £4.50
·         Fleas will stay away for up to 5 weeks for cats and 8 weeks for dogs
·         If used regularly pets can remain FleaClear all year


All cats are different and this post is not recommending cats are left unaccompanied with babies, but i was surprised with how well my cats and baby got along, at least when she was newborn.

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