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While your kitty cat may be a wonderful friend, it’s likely that with a new baby in the home, you’ll feel torn between the baby’s safety and the cat’s well-being. “Cats can certainly interact with babies provided the parent has previously overseen the interactions and feels confident that the child won’t traumatize the cat and vice versa,” says Dr. Patrick Mahaney, California-based veterinarian. Keep both your cat and your baby safe by recognizing and addressing the risks with cat ownership when a new baby enters the home.
Safe Cat Handling
A concern about baby and feline interaction is the baby’s potential lack of awareness about safe cat handling, says Mahaney. Babies want to explore and touch everything in sight, whereas many felines are easily startled and energetic. “Aggressively approaching, hitting instead of petting and tail-pulling are all behaviors that could motivate a cat to strike back with its claws or even bite,” Mahaney says.
Begin by introducing your baby to the family cat by modeling safe cat handling, showing her how to gently pet the kitty. It’s also imperative that a baby is never left alone in a room with the family pet.
One of the primary concerns parents have when cohabitating with a cat and a baby is Bartonella, a bacteria that ends up on a cat’s nails as a result of flea infestations, and can cause cat scratch fever. “A defensive or aggressive scratch could transmit the bacteria from cat to baby,” says Mahaney. Since infants and children are still developing mature immune systems, exposure to Bartonella bacteria could have severe health consequences, he says.
Mahaney recommends protecting your cat and your baby by using veterinary prescribed parasite control products and decontaminating your home frequently to keep flea populations under control. Vacuum frequently and wash upholstery and bedding regularly to protect both the baby and your cat.
To better protect the baby’s skin from scratching, keep your cat’s nails in tip-top shape by trimming them regularly. “The most important thing to remember is that cats, particularly kittens, tend to scratch when they play,” says Steven May, pet expert and co-author of “What About Wally? Co-Parenting a Pet with Your Ex.”
Beyond trimming those toes, consider speaking to your veterinarian about “Soft Paws.” These vinyl caps can be glued to a cat’s paws to protect against scratching. “It is a safe and painless process but should be administered by a veterinarian,” says May.
It’s likely that your cat will be drawn to the new baby in the home. He may want to snuggle, nuzzle and warm your child at times. While exposing the family cat to your baby is typically safe if supervised, limit your cat’s access to the child’s room and crib. Safeguard the crib by purchasing a net to put over it so that your kitty cat can see and smell the baby, but cannot disrupt her sleep by jumping in the crib. You can also get crafty and add a screen door to your child’s nursery to prevent the cat from entering her room altogether. Your kitty can sneak a peek while your child plays safely in her room.