I heard my people say something about bringing home a new pet. One old lady said they should take me to the pound cuz I would suck the breath out of it. What can I do to make them change their minds about this interloper?
Looks like I’m bye bye, Baby
Oh Baby, oh Baby,
Sounds like before long there’s going to be another baby around your house. Once you get used to them, they’re not all that bad, except for the noise and the smell. It’s still better than a Labrador.
Infants are accompanied by the "Six S’s": Sudden strange smells, sounds, and screwed-up schedules. And if there’s one thing we can say universally about kitties when it comes to behavior, we don’t like change.
Your humans will want to take baby steps when introducing you to the new experiences that await you, and reward you whenever you encounter them. To make sure you accept your future littermate, your people should invite others with newborns over so you can get used to all the strange sounds and smells.
These creatures arrive along with a plethora of new odors — some good, some not so good: baby powder, baby lotion, baby oil and diapers (used and unused). Your mom (and other family members) can start acclimating you to these by wearing baby lotions and powder.
We kitties have scent glands that release our personal chemical signature. The glands on different parts of our bodies relay different messages. Scent from the face is punctuated with hearts. They’re friendly pheromones, and we use them to mark objects that we consider part of own personal turf. If Mom wants you to feel friendly about the new creature and her accoutrements, she can take a clean cloth and massage the area around your mouth and forehead, then rub the corners of the kid’s furniture or baby clothes with the same cloth. Your scent on the creature’s stuff will help you feel calm and accepting.
Speaking of facial pheromones, Comfort Zone with Feliway is a synthetic facial pheromone available at most pet stores. Plug-ins placed in your favorite hangouts will help keep you calm.
Once the creature has made her official debut, someone should bring you a blanket, pillow or towel containing the baby’s scent. Whenever you check out the blanket, they should praise you and offer you yummy treats.
When the creature comes home, they shouldn’t panic cuz you want to sniff him. As a matter of fact, curious sniffs earn more treats! Good things happen in the creature’s presence. If you (or the baby) get grumpy, Mom should move him without scolding you. She can reintroduce you two later.
Experts now know that kitties don’t suck the breath out of babies; most deaths blamed on the family cat are now thought to be Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Even if you fall in love immediately, Mom should never leave the baby alone with any pet.
Babies are accompanied by a cacophony of sounds. Your mom can buy a CD that plays baby sounds or look for crying babies on YouTube. Start listening to the canned crying on a low volume, then gradually crank it up over a period of weeks. (Whenever the CD plays, you get even more treats.)
Toys make odd noises, too. For some reason, human toys sound different from your squeaky mouse. You get another round of treats when the humans activate the toys. (This is starting to turn into a windfall for you, isn’t it?)
If the nursery is going to become a tabby taboo, your favorite chair or beloved furniture needs to go someplace where you can still hang out on them. Mom can install a screen door to the creature’s room. That way they can hear everything going on, but you won’t be required to investigate every single noise. You may sneak in to check things out, but rather than going ballistic, Mom can just pick you up and put you in your bed and give you a treat. (I can see you may soon need to read my recent Oprah the Orca column.)
Felines love routine, but life with a baby is kitty chaos. Any necessary shifting of the feeding or box cleaning schedule should happen well ahead of the birth.
Even though your people are going to have playtime with the newcomer 24/7, you still need your own play sessions. Jumping and chasing feathers on a string for 10 minutes twice a day will get rid of excess energy and release endorphins — all good things. Instead of eating from a bowl, you can stay busy throughout the day by foraging from a food puzzle while mom messes with the kid.
Even though it may be a while before the kiddo becomes mobile, a baby gate will keep future inquiring minds and hands out of your litter box and dinner dishes. It also offers you sanctuary. You’ll want to scope out some high places like empty bookshelves or a tall cat tree, so you can stay out of reach and safely torment the toddler from above.
I hope your mom remembers, despite all the turmoil, that any sudden change in your behavior could be a symptom that you’re sick and not "jealous." If you start peeing outside the box or stop eating, a trip to the vet is in order.
Be patient, Baby. Once he’s crawling, you can knock the breakables off table and the humans will blame the kid. It might be nerve-wracking at first, but soon the little rug rat will be dropping food all over the floor for you to clean up. And when he grows to the meat stage, he might share some turkey baby food with you.
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Got a question for he who knows everything feline? Just Ask Einstein in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. (Letters don’t have to be written from the cat’s point of view.) Remember, any change in your cat’s behavior or activities could be a symptom of disease and should be investigated by your vet, even if it unfortunately involves glass tubes and cat posteriors.
Einstein’s assistant, Dusty Rainbolt ACCBC, is the vice president of the Cat Writers’ Association, editor-in-chief of AdoptAShelter.com and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She’s the award-winning author of eight fiction and non-fiction books including her most recent paranormal mystery, Death Under the Crescent Moon.