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

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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. As a vet, I wish so many of the repliers here were my clients! Most of the advice is great – take both kitties to the vet first. Major stress/life style changes can cause behavioral house soiling, but can also contribute to idiopathic cystitis (not necessarily an infection, like a UTI). Medications can help, and can be compounded into feline-friendly liquids or chews if your cats object to pills. Feliway diffusers are a great place to start for stressed cats. Double check that you and your partner haven’t neglected little box duty in favor of diaper duty – we had a similar problem when I got pregnant and the litter box responsibility shifted but got forgotten a few too many times.

  2. This happens quite often! Your cats consider you to be their mom and they’re acting out just like a toddler might. I would recommend calling your vet. They’ve seen this plenty of times and can give you accurate and solid advice. I admire you for taking initiative to make it better instead of just going for the easy way out and dumping them at a shelter. Kudos!!

  3. So glad you asked this, we are expecting our first human baby in December, and our kitty baby is in for a pretty big change I think. Last weekend we had several people ask us if we were getting rid of the cat when the baby came! No!!! I’ve been allowing her in the nursery, so she can be comfortable in there (though NOT in the crib simply for the fur factor) and we plan to continue to give her lots and lots of love and attention and play time. I LOVED the idea of giving her a “safe” place where baby isn’t allowed to mess with her, maybe I’ll get her a cat bed. And thank you for the advice to bring home something that smells like baby before you bring home baby. Good job for Grandma, since she loves the kitty almost as much as we do.

  4. Once my cat was put on fluoxetine (antidepressant), he stopped his inappropriate urination immediately. You have to pill a cat every day indefinitely, but it’s much more pleasant than cleaning up urine puddles.

  5. I can’t add anything new to this, since there seems to be lots of good advice. We had 2 cats that we got as older kittens (10 mos to a year old) before our oldest daughter was born. We didn’t have issues with them and the babies (we later had another daughter), however as the younger daughter got older she didn’t play as nicely with the kitties as her older sister did. One cat didn’t care, we called her an “affection whore” and she really didn’t care what you did as long as it was attention. The other cat would unpredictably lash out and scratch the kid who was about 2. Once she got her super close to the eye. After that, we had to take her back to the shelter we got her from (that was their rule). Maybe we didn’t try too hard, but in the battle between pets and kids (if it comes to it) the kids will win. I felt horrible since the cats not only had spent years together, they were actually sisters. We kept the other cat, and I got her in the divorce. I ultimately had to give her back to the same shelter as well just last year as I was engaged and moving in with my fiance who was pretty severely allergic to cats. So she could not stay. He wouldn’t just get itchy or sneezy, it was severe enough to affect his breathing and since he already had asthma we just couldn’t risk that. 🙁 I hope your situation gets better.

  6. Hi there! As a rescuer, I spend a lot of time talking to people of child-bearing age (or those who might want to adopt) about how to prepare cats/dogs for the arrival of a child/another person in the home/a dog/any major change in your schedule or lives.
    ** As someone else mentioned- cats are creatures of habit and routine. As parents, you have 9 months to prepare for the arrival of a baby, whereas the cat has no notification or idea that their world will change. Expectant parents tend to “bank” time with their animals, because they know that they will have very little time once the baby arrives. This makes sense in how humans think- but for animals, it feels like they’ve just had the rug pulled out from under them. If you know that a major change is going to happen in your life (going back to work/adding another animal or human to your household), it’s important to “wean” your pet off of spending so much time with you gradually.
    ** We tend to think that animals think like we do- they plot revenge, they lash out or take things out on us- and this is a very human way to interpret their emotions, but it’s also not at all how they think/process information. It’s important to keep that in mind, because we tend to think that our kitties are “punishing us” or “seeking revenge,” which prevents us from truly tackling the problem.
    ** Whenever there is a big change in your cats’ lives, it’s important to have an “isolation period.” Choose a “safe room” in the house and place the litterbox, food, toys, scratching post, etc. in the safe room. It’s important to note that this is not a punishment for the cat. As pet owners, we see our cats run and hide when they encounter something scary. The safe room gives them the opportunity to be aware that they are completely safe from the new stimulus/change in the home and get their bearings. Visit the kitty- spend time in there with them- especially after the baby comes home, so that they can become accustomed to the new smell of the baby.
    ** Pay attention to your cat’s signals. Many cats are okay with a weeklong isolation period . . . and some need longer. If the kitty is curious and seems well-adjusted, try short, positive trips outside of the safe room.
    ** When the kitty seems like it’s doing well outside the isolation room and spending more time outside of it, it’s important to remember that there will still be scary moments. Most often, when a cat is peeing outside the box, it’s because something “scary” is in between the kitty and their litterbox. If the cat is scared when a baby is wailing, they’re not going to run past the baby on the way to their litterbox . . . they will instead find something soft/absorbent to pee on (blankets, towels, etc.). They do not seek out something specific of the baby’s- it’s much more likely that you’ve left baby items lying around (towels/blankets/soiled clothing on the floor). The best way to combat this is to set up several litterboxes around the home. Yes, this is a pain for a bit . . . but it’s much more of a pain to clean up pee. 
    ** Try to remember that you chose to be a parent and knew (for the most part!) what you were getting into. The cat/dog did not expect what was coming and has no reference point for coping. A huge change like this, without preparation (simply bringing baby home and expecting the cat/dog to be okay with it) usually leads to problems. As parents, we read the books, we set up the nursery, we buy baby clothes and books and toys . . . but many parents neglect preparing their pets for the baby’s arrival. A little bit of preparation can go a long way. 

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