Do I really have to give up my cats because we have a kid?

Posted by
Can't we all be friends? Photo by leann_b, used under Creative Commons license.
Three years ago I had my first two babies — my cats, Samson and Thing. I have always had cats in my life, and never had any behavior problems from them. But I haven’t always had (human) babies in my life — until my daughter Abigail was born in April 2012. Prior to her birth I was bombarded with horror stories about cats going crazy after babies are introduced into the home, but I was determined not to let this happen.

When my daughter came home, our cats immediately reacted — the first time Abigail cried, Samson made the weirdest noise (sort of a click-screech-chirp) I’ve ever heard. They mostly ignored her, until two weeks ago when they started peeing all over the house — and both cats are fixed.

Right now the cats hang out in our almost finished basement because I’m afraid they’ll start peeing in the rest of the house again — and the house isn’t that big. I do not want to get rid of my cats, so I’m wondering: have any other families had the same problem and overcome it? — Jacqueline

Comments on Do I really have to give up my cats because we have a kid?

  1. *I type this as I am cleaning the cat pee out of my shoe*

    We have 2 cats. Our younger cat loves LOVES! our toddlers. However, our older cat not so much. She first ignored our twins but now that they are overactive toddlers she has been peeing all over the house – mostly on my shoes and on baby stuff left on the ground. The vet says that medically she is fine and that this is a behavioral reaction to the kiddos.

    To try to help her adjust to the crazy kiddos we created a safe space for her in our finished basement away from the kids – a cat carrier with a warm blanket folded inside. A couple of times a day we have tried to introduce the toddlers and the cat in a controlled calm environment. With the hope that the cat will see that the toddlers just want to pet her. We also have upped our kitty only time to make sure she knows we aren’t replacing her.

  2. My cats don’t seem to be bothered by the new baby, but one of my cats got very stressed a few years ago when we got a second dog and started peeing on things. Assuming you have the cats checked out by a vet to rule out a UTI, etc. you might want to look into the Feliway pheromone diffusers. We got a couple of those and plugged them in where the cats mostly hung out. It definitely helped keep the cats calmer. Additionally, we made sure the cats had space to get away from the dogs by basically turning our guest room into the cat room. If you’re able, I’d try to give the cat as much physical space as you can. I’d also make sure you spend time playing, petting, etc. your cat when the baby isn’t around/asleep, to make sure they are getting enough attention. Our cat will still occasionally pee on something if we leave it out (she can’t resist a pile of clothes left on the floor,) but it’s gotten better and we’ve gotten used to just avoiding the problem by making sure anything that she would normally pee on is put away.

    • I was just going to suggest Feliway! I used to use it with a problem kitty, and it helped A LOT to calm her down and keep her from peeing outside the box whenever she got upset. They also have a spray that you can use to give an extra dose of the pheromones to blankets they sleep on and stuff like that.

  3. Oh honey it isn’t just you! My Tortie Amelie is 5 years old and was just fine when our son first came home and about 2 months ago we noticed that there was a certain smell coming from somewhere in the house but we couldn’t figure out where.. we found it.. she was peeing under the kitchen table and specifically under his high-chair. What we did was get one of those feline stress aroma things (like a plug-in but with oils that calm kitties) and a calming collar.. AND I cleaned the bejezuz out of the floor… what got her to stop was this, I started feeding her some wet food every day on a plate UNDER his chair, cats will not soil where they eat. Hope this helps πŸ™‚

  4. There is a de-stressing pheromone spray that you can get from your vet. It might help. You have to be dedicated and use it twice a day. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of it.

  5. When I had a majorly stressed out cat, I tried the Feliway that everyone is recommending, but it was very expensive. I would put a few drops of Rescue Remedy in her water bowl, too – it really helped with the stress level.

  6. We adopted 2 cats when we already had 2 toddlers in the house – my kids love animals, so we asked the lady that was fostering them if she thought any would be good with kids and she immediately suggested 2 brothers, both already fixed. For a while they were fine; one cat absolutely LOVED our kids and would follow them around, sleep on my daughter’s bed, and let them cart him around to their hearts’ content, and the other mostly just avoided them, though he was fine with my husband and I. We made sure he had lots of high places the kids couldn’t reach, and they seemed fine for a few months, but then we started noticing smells. First they started not covering up their poop. They would poop in the litter box and then just leave it, and the smell was incredible. The litter was changed at least once a day, but that didn’t seem to matter, they just refused to cover it, when before they always had. Then the peeing and pooping around the house started, mostly on the kids’ clothes, especially the kids’ laundry that we had sorted in our room. It culminated in my husband discovering my son’s snowsuit that was in the back of our closet completely covered in pee and poop (sorry for the visual). This was made worse by the fact that we were renting our apartment, and were forever trying to keep the carpets decent. When we bought our house, my husband had finally had enough, and we ended up finding a new home for them, and single guy whose ex-wife had taken their cats and who really missed having cats around. We’ve gotten pictures of them from him, and so far, he’s had no issues at all with them not using their litter, and he’s had them now for over a year. I hate that we gave them up, but with a husband as neurotic and neat-freaky as mine is, it was a pretty lost battle after a few months. Hopefully other posters’ suggestions might help you, but in the end, it was probably the best move for my guys-they just didn’t adjust to the kids, and no one was happy. Good luck!

  7. Definitely take both cats to the vet to rule out infections, and then ask your vet for advice. I had a cat on Prozac for awhile (unfortunately she was misdiagnosed as having behavioral issues and she actually had bladder stones, buuuut, that’s another story), and this stopped her going outside of the box completely. It sounds odd, but it worked. There’s also Feliway, which other posters have mentioned, and I’ve heard that can work wonders. Just try not to give up before seeing a vet. In all my years of living with cats, I’ve only had to give up one, as absolutely nothing worked for getting her to not go outside her box. But most of the time, there is something off with them, either behaviorally or physically, and it can be remedied.

  8. My parents have a Maine Coon who is basically the most nervous, skittish cat I have ever met – any disruption to her routine, and her reaction is to pee on people’s beds. It’s very unpleasant! Some things my parents have found helpful: setting and sticking to the same routine (as far as feeding times, kitty play time, etc.) as much as possible, giving her plenty of space to herself to do her own thing, and for a year or so they had her on anti-anxiety medication prescribed by their vet. She is off the medication now and generally doing very well, though she had a bit of a relapse when my mother (who she normally sleeps with at night) broke her hip and was in the hospital last winter. She has even been much more friendly in the past year or so, to a point of sitting in my mother’s lap on occasion.

    For cleaning up after incidents, it’s important to thoroughly get the urine smell out so that the cat doesn’t continue to recognize that spot/item as something that should be peed on. White vinegar is very useful in this regard – dilute it in a spray bottle for hard surfaces or areas you can’t put in a washer, and add vinegar in place of fabric softener to items that can be washed in a washing machine. The vinegar smell fades fairly quickly and it really does help with the odor, especially in fabrics.

    In my house, we have issues with cats who are overly aggressive toward each other… We tried Feliway (the pheromone spray and plug-in diffusers) and didn’t feel that it made any difference. I couldn’t stand the smell of the spray, though, and subsequently didn’t use it as often as people recommend, so maybe it would be more useful for other peoples’ situations. We do use a catnip spray on their scratchers and kitty beds/towers, which the cats seem to really enjoy.

  9. You absolutely don’t need to give up your cats. They are stressed now but as they get more used to the baby they should calm down. The advice about Feliway and Rescue Remedy is good, and as others have said it is also a good idea to take the cats to the vet to rule out any medical problems.

    When I saw the title of this post I was afraid it was going to be a rehash of the old “cats will steal the baby’s breath/smother the baby/otherwise harm them” myth. Glad to hear you didn’t buy into that one and I hope you find a solution to your current cat issue.

    • lol I’ve had some of my Japanese friends try to tell me that about the baby’s breath! I thought they were just being nutty until I searched online and found out that’s a pretty widely held belief! They don’t seem to believe me when I tell when my parents had a cat when I was a baby and I didn’t die. I’ll be curious to see how our two cats react to the baby when it arrives later this year but smothering it to death is not an anticipated outcome πŸ™‚

      • After you’ve given birth but are still in the hospital have your partner return home with a hat or something the baby’s worn for the cat to smell and leave it where baby will sleep. It will get the cat used to the idea of the baby so she won’t freak too much. This is what we did with our cat and she hasn’t lashed out yet!

      • haha, about the breath stealing, I’ve heard of it. But that’s silly! But its true people really believe that crap! Like I said I grew up with cats, I had a cat who used to sleep curled around my head when I was little…Im still alive πŸ˜‰

    • Agree, definitely take them to the vet just to be sure (and pray that it IS a medical thing, because those are way easier to solve than behavioral problems), but it sounds like they’re just stressed from the new baby. Maybe it would be best to keep them in their own room for a while (like the bathroom) with their litterbox, food dishes, and bed. This gives them a “safe zone” away from the baby, and gives them fewer options for “accidents”. Over time, as they calm down, let them out of the bathroom top slowly meet the baby.

  10. I’m in the same boat! My 8 year old cat Maybe was the best-behaved cat in the world — never scratched things or peed anywhere but the litter box — until my son arrived. She was fine until he was about 6 months old, when we made a huge mistake… we had placed a quilt under his crib until he was big enough to make use of it. When he started to sit up & roll around, we got out the quilt and placed it on our living room floor for him. Unbeknownst to us, Maybe had been sleeping on it while it was under his crib. So when the baby “stole” it from her, she tried to reclaim it by peeing on it. Now she pees on the carpet where the blanket was, and any other blankets of the baby’s that get left out on the floor. We are trying everything to get her to quit, but aren’t having much luck. We just have to keep his blankets up off the floor unless we’re right there. I think I’ll try the scent diffuser that was mentioned above and see if that helps.

  11. As a vet tech here’s my advice:

    Feliway: like most are recommending can for sure help in this stressful transition.
    Rule out urinary tract infections or other diseases that may cause increased urination (kidney issues, diabetes). Usually these pet drink more water as well. Are they straining to urinate? (painful urination may cause litter box aversion).
    Gold standard for litter boxes: same litter they are used to, one box for each cat per floor in your house, scoop twice daily.
    Are they afraid to be in the basement and stressed because they can’t romp around in their usual places?
    Behavioral urination is always hard to address but your local vet will have some great advice to help.

  12. I guess it’s too late, but in the future or for anyone else about to introduce a kid to their cats: you might want to introduce the cats to your kid slowly, maybe limit the rooms the cats are in before baby comes, then let them get used to the babies scent. When I was little one of our cats slept in my crib (I’m still alive!). My mom’s cat had an episode when she got a new kitten during which he got sick and stressed and didn’t eat for 3 days, but slowly he’s returning to normal, so maybe it is all about stress?

  13. My dog is named Thing, too! I am getting increasingly worried to see how he responds to our impending bundle of joy. He doesn’t like kids (or anyone short)(or anyone tall)(or people who wear hats), so I’m sort of terrified that he might have to go live with my parents, where he will become a terrible old mutt who bites anyone short or tall person in a hat.


      I don’t know anything about cats, but this training method did wonders for my hates everything dog. I’ve been warned that with dogs there are 2 majors adjustment phases to adding children to their life: first when baby comes home, and second when baby becomes mobile. Apparently, dogs can freak out when “that loud thing” starts moving towards them. Parents generally aren’t being as cautious in that phase, because they expect the dog is used to the baby.

  14. Cats need to feel secure about their place in the household, and any new arrival can shake that security and cause them to “assert” themselves in inappropriate ways (like territory marking by scratching furniture or peeing)

    As others have said, giving your cat their own “safe zone” can really help, where they can escape to peace & quiet when they feel overwhelmed.

    And if you have the space to offer them “high ground” places where they can get up above the chaos – cat tree, window sills, tops of bookshelves, etc. That way they can watch what’s going on, without feeling overwhelmed or shunted off to another part of the house. You may have to introduce these new spaces to your cats with treats, to show them these are OK places for them to be.

    Taking time to play with and focus on the cats can also help them feel more secure. Routines are key! You can even turn it into a routine for your daughter as she gets bigger and can watch or “help” play, brush, & feed the kitties. It will be special bonding time for her with her furry housemates.

    • My 21-month-old daughter now loves helping to feed the kitties, but when we let her participate, we have to make sure that she’s not sneaking a handful of food for herself—or to throw in their water, which she thinks is great fun. :/

  15. All the advice here is great!

    To add to all this great advice, in my experience once cats start peeing somewhere, they will continue to pee there if there is any trace of urine left. Even if the rest of the circumstances change, smelling their own urine and peeing overtop of is like an automatic reaction. So if there is anything soft and therefore hard to clean that’s been peed on that you can throw out and replace, get rid of it (or put it in storage to test whether it helps for the items to be removed). The stuff you want to keep or that can’t be changed easily (like carpets) needed to cleaned really, really thoroughly.

    We once had a big problem with our cat-stress peeing (although children were not involved) and even after the other changes we made to create a better environment, it didn’t stop until we took the plunge and got rid of the couch.

  16. I have two cats that I adopted together as kittens. The female cat is naturally anxious and will pee on mats, in laundry baskets and pillows left on the floor. She was isolated from other animals for several months and didn’t mark once so we know it’s a behavioural issue.

    When we moved into a small apartment, we had to bring the cats together again and I tried several things to get her to stop peeing. I used a natural, oral calming medicine (Biocalm) on both cats, tried Feliway diffusers, purchased Cat Attract litter, introduced additional litter boxes, kept her out of the bedrooms. Nothing helped until our vet put her on a prescription sedative (Clomicalm). One tablet at night and she hasn’t peed anywhere in almost two months. She’s slightly dopier than she used to be but she’s always been a very chill kitty. We still only allow supervised visitation to the bedrooms and we keep the doors closed at night.

    It’s worth trying natural methods to see if any work; I’m glad I did. In the end, it came down to drugs or finding her a new home, a prospect I was dreading intensely. As an unexpected bonus, the Clomicalm is only $25/month… much cheaper than the other options we were trying.

    Best of luck!

  17. you guys!!! I love you all so much for your feedback and that you mamas are on the kitties side! I’ll try all of your suggestions starting with the vet. ill keep you all posted. you all are super extra wonderful. :^)

  18. We had luck ‘de-stressing’ our cats by following our vet’s recommendation of confining the cats to one bathroom or bedroom full time. Their beds, toys, food and litter was kept in the room and we all took turns going in to play and care for them throughout the day. We also made sure they had a window to sit in and look out. They really seemed to like the predictable routine and suddenly remembered what the litter box was for. After two weeks we started letting them out for increasing amounts of time and so far, so good. When unavoidable stresses or changes in routine arise we go back to the one room set up and they really seem to appreciate being spared the drama. And we appreciate their consistent use of the litter box.

  19. We have two cats, one who is an a kitty senior citizen (he’s 21 yrs old!) and a grumpy 11 year old…and a 3 yr old that came home with a wicked case of colic. Kid screamed for the first 3 months of his life non-stop and the cats HATED the kitten. We used Bach’s Rescue Remedy in their cat water, made the guest room the kitty room where we never ever took the baby or any of the baby things so it wouldn’t be tainted. At first the cats would pee,throw their food and water everywhere and scratch the crap out of us if we came too close. We’ve hit a truce 3 years later. Cats still dislike the kitten, but they’ve learned he’ll drop cherios which are better than cat food and they love us again. Stick with it, everybody will come around.

  20. We have two cats. They were okay with the baby for awhile, but then (I think when they realized she wasn’t temporary), the older one (they were 1.5 yrs and 6 months when the baby was born) started peeing in laundry baskets and on the bath mat and a couple other places. We thought she might have a bladder infection, so we took her to the vet. He thought that the smell of the baby’s pee (especially since we use cloth diapers) was bringing it on. He gave us something to plug into the wall that gave off happy kitty pheremones or something like that. I think it cost $40, and we never replaced it. Once it ran out, the cats seemed to be better adjusted. We still don’t leave laundry baskets on the floor or towels down as mats if we’re not showering, but the peeing has mostly stopped. There have been a few instances which we’ve linked to dissatisfaction with the state of her litter box.

  21. One thing that helps a ton is vertical space. Cats want to hang out with the family and see whats going on even with a screaming baby around and if they can do so from somewhere the little one can’t touch them, but maybe an adult could still calmly pet them, would be ideal.

    Make sure food, water, liter are all part of the no child zone in one way or another. Lots of stuff on offbeat home mentioned feeding cats up off the ground is much more relaxing for them. ^_^

    And lastly for anyone planning on kids rather than trying to work with the situation already at hand: We had the cosleeper and packnplay set up since our fist trimester and left treats near or under for the kitties in little bits so they get used to them being good spaces. (They also belonged to my sister-in-law before us so they already had a little toddler smell still to them.)

  22. We have 2 dogs, and assumed that our super possessive terrier would hate the baby, and that our loves-kids collie would be sitting underneath the crib and making sure that she was ok. As it turns out, our terrier loves her and the collie is freaked out by her. Even more fun is the collie has started eating our front window sill if we leave him inside when we go out. The terrier cannot stay outside as he is an escape artist, so we have now have to separate them. Frustrating since we got a second dog to keep our first company!

    Animals react in unexpected ways to big changes. I’m no cat whisperer, but they will eventually adjust. I would suggest slowly allowing them access to the house again. One room at a time, and if them make a mess start over. Cats are not stupid, they’ll get there. πŸ™‚

  23. Off the main question a little but within the subject…….or cats sleep with us on our bed… the future when we have human kittens I am off the mind to co sleep….I am worried about the cats sleeping on ‘baby’… one kitty sleeps on me!!!….what have others found???

    • How attached are you to having the cats sleep with you?

      Our cat was the most obnoxious bed-mate ever, so we had to teach him that though he had free run of our bedroom during the day, at night the door would shut and he had to do his wild rumpus in another part of the house.

      We got one of those motion sensor cat trainers, and after a couple weeks, he stopped pawing at the door.

      6 years later, he takes daytime naps in bed with us, but we go our separate ways at night with no hard feelings.

      I can only imagine when our human “kitten” arrives (soon!) that this will be one less thing to deal with, so I’m glad we already addressed it.

    • Consider a co-sleeper type bassinette. We have one ready for kidlet (due in a couple months). I want to co-sleep but am not kicking elderly dog-child off the bed. It also frees me from the worry about soft mattresses, pillows, blankets, falling off the bed, etc. Hopefully it will work!

    • you too huh? I have 3 dogs and cat, and all of them sleep in bed with us- i hadn’t planned on co sleeping because of this, but had planned on having a bassinet next to the bed for at least the first couple of months. the only thing that bothers me is i have a feeling my smallest dog (a 20lb mix) or my cat is going to try and jump in the bassinet since it’s going to be about level with our bed. since they were there first i don’t feel right kicking them all out (i’ve been adamant that i will change as little as possible so as not to stress out my furry children). and my cat has seizures so we lock him in our room so we get woken up if he’s having an episode. i’m probably going to wind up just putting the bassinet farther away from the bed so they can’t jump in.

      and sadly, my brat of a cat already pees in the house, but atleast he goes on puppy wee wee pads and in the shower (i’m not kidding, my cat is a freak).

  24. Im having my hubbs build a little kitty walk way to get to spaces higher than us. Since Ive been reading everyone’s comments, I think that’s something they are missing 100% in our house! So maybe this will help too, because I only have my bedroom, and Abby’s bedroom, so they dont have their own space, except for the basement, which is just not fair to them. Yes its finished, but I just hate leaving them down there all the time. I think re introducing them to the house will be a little difficult, but with the vertical spaces they may be nicer about the whole situation.

    Thanks again everyone! <3

Read more comments

Join the Conversation