Do cats get jealous of babies?
Preparing Your Cat for a New Baby
How will your cat react to having a new arrival in the house and how do you ensure cat and baby get along? Vet and behaviorist Francesca Riccomini offers advice on how to prepare your family feline for a new addition .
For many owners, their cat represents another family member and as such has equal access to all the resources their home has to offer. In feline terms, this includes human attention, which is often on demand whenever anyone is at home. So can cat and baby get along?
Centre of attention
It is not unusual for a pet to be nurtured and even spoiled, becoming the ‘baby’ of the family. This is fine if it suits the cat’s temperament and everyone involved, but problems can arise when a real baby is suddenly introduced into the household. The problems can be severe if the cat is mature and has had little, or only negative, experience of babies and young children, particularly during the important kitten socialization period of between two and seven weeks. Many of us acquire our cats when they are well past this stage or don’t have the opportunity to introduce tiny kittens to small children. Although it is not impossible to make up for this lack of early experience in later life, it is best to make plans and preparations well in advance of a baby’s birth.
Different responses from different cats
How an individual cat will respond to a new arrival will depend upon genetics (breed and parentage as well as species), personality and experience. Sometimes, it has to be admitted that these do not predispose an individual to coexist harmoniously and safely with babies and young children. Some owners, after careful consideration of all the issues, decide that they cannot take the responsibility of keeping a particular pet when they have children and so find their cat a good home which is more suited to his needs. Sadly, the decision to relinquish a pet is not always so well considered and aggression towards children or urine spraying (for which the unprepared arrival of a baby can be a stimulus) is a not uncommon reason for cats to end up in need of rescue. It is not always possible to prevent such a sad outcome by pre-emptive action but it can often be avoided by careful thought and forward planning.
Living in harmony
For the best possible chance of your extended family living happily together, two aspects need to be considered: the environment and the pet. Your cat needs to have his own bed, feeding and water dishes, toys, litter tray etc. Although these need to be sited somewhere convenient for all the humans in the house they also need to be in the right spot for the cat — the litter tray should be in a private position away from his food and away from areas of busy traffic, like the kitchen and hallway; the scratching post should be near an external door or close to where the cat already chooses to mark his territory by clawing. If possible, choose somewhere elevated for the cat to eat or rest, or an area which can be sealed off with a baby gate. This gives the cat a chance, at least, to escape the advances of a toddler. If the current locations of your cat’s bed, litter tray and other requirements are going to prove impractical or unsuitable when the baby arrives, you will need to make changes now. It is important, particularly for an elderly cat, that these changes are made gradually.
Somewhere to hide
Remember that the preferred feline method of dealing with something unsettling, which may represent a potential threat, is to hide, preferably in a high, dark, secluded place from which there is a good view, so that the situation can be assessed in safety. Such sanctuaries can easily be provided by putting cardboard boxes on their side, or igloo beds, on top of furniture or sturdy shelves. Provide a number of such retreats in various areas of your home, but especially where you will spend time with your baby and encourage their use by putting favored blankets or tasty treats in them.
Often the room which is to be the nursery is one to which the cat has been allowed free access. It is advisable for this to be prevented well before the baby actually takes up residence. To reduce adverse reaction to the change and to prevent ‘barrier frustration’, spray the closed door and its frame with Feliway or rub with ‘facial cloths’. Don’t forget that indoor cats will be more affected by even small changes in their environment, territory and lifestyle, than those with access to the outdoors.
Changes to territory
The feline olfactory system is very sensitive and scent is an important means of communication in the domestic cat. Thus any disturbance in the scent profile of a cat’s territory can have a major impact and cause real distress to a pet. This is frequently unrecognized, but explains why equipment for the baby, acquired in advance of his or her arrival, often becomes the target for urination or spraying, as a cat attempts to reassure itself by ‘marking’ the articles with its own scent in this way. Pheromone preparations can also, therefore, be usefully applied to such baby things as buggies, cots and high chairs. For this reason it is worth acquiring from friends and relatives as many everyday baby items as possible so that your cat can be introduced ahead of time to the wide range of often pungent odors he will later encounter! These may be minimal to us, with our poor sense of smell, but could represent a major stressful intrusion for a cat. Bringing the things into the home in a gradual and controlled way should not only reduce any aversive qualities associated with them by allowing our cat to adjust slowly to their presence, but should help you by creating opportunities to condition positive associations by, for instance, offering tasty food or indulging in a favorite game, when something first arrives.
Praise, play, food
It is worth remembering the essential ‘rules’ of never reassuring a pet’s anxiety or fear, as this will only make it worse. But reinforce relaxed behavior by your cat in the face of any potential stressor with praise, petting, play or food. A cat’s hearing, like its sense of smell, is very much better than ours, so it would be worth playing, initially at low volume, tapes of baby noises — crying, gurgling, squealing etc. Again, reward the behavior you wish to encourage and only increase the volume gradually as your cat indicates that he can cope.
It is, of course, helpful to have babies and young children visit your home, but choose the latter with care. Cats can find the experience overwhelming if confronted by youngsters who insist on pursuing them. Always supervise encounters an,d ensure that any handling is gentle and appropriate. Children should never be allowed to try and pick up a cat they are not strong enough to hold comfortably. They should always be shown how to support the pet’s full weight with a hand under his bottom so that he is never allowed to dangle from his front legs. Remember too, that some conscientious children, when told not to let a kitten or small cat fall, inadvertently squeeze too hard so that their good intentions hurt the animal as much as those of the child who is rough and uncaring. It is best to stick to hands-off interaction, such as playing with fishing rod toys, balls or a torchlight against the wall, sitting quietly near a cat or perhaps giving him a gentle stroke or grooming if the cat concerned won’t find that too intrusive. Again, making the experience pleasurable by reinforcement with praise or a treat can help to consolidate the positive associations for the cat with the presence of ,small humans. Never let anyone, including children, encourage a cat or kitten to play directly with fingers, toes or any other part of the human anatomy. This can lead, albeit unintentionally, to injury at a later date and sometimes to problems with aggression.
If your relationship with your cat has been very close, it may well be difficult to find the time to sustain the same degree of affection once the new baby arrives. So it would be sensible and kinder to your cat to dilute the emotional intensity between you well in advance. Anticipate your new timetable and establish a different routine for your cat which you are fairly confident you will be able to sustain in the future. Introduce changes gradually to minimize the impact. If your cat is used to undivided attention for much of the time, withdraw it initially for short periods as far in advance of the baby’s arrival as possible. You can gradually lengthen the periods of withdrawal at a rate which reflects your cat’s ability to cope. Instigate times of structured play or grooming to suit your new timetable and your cat’s needs, but if he appears aroused or stressed, don’t impose your attentions on him as he will only become more upset and may even lash out at you.
If your cat has existing behavioral problems which you have previously ‘put up with’ now is the time to get them sorted out as it is likely they will only worsen with the upheaval and disruption caused by a tiny baby. When your baby arrives, try to set aside time for your cat and stick to his established routines. Predictability is very important to felines. If you are simply too busy to cope with the demands of both baby and cat, consider inviting friends or family known to him to provide one-to-one sessions of play or grooming. If your cat tries to run away from your children never try to thwart him. Flight is a natural feline reaction to anything strange. If you try to restrain him, it will cause him stress and fear could spill into aggression if he believes that he is trapped and has lost control of the situation.
Help! Is My Cat Jealous of My New Baby?
Humans can usually tell if a cat is nervous or anxious, happy or content, because we have learned to read their body language and know the signs – but jealousy is more difficult to attribute to a cat’s behaviour. We do know that cat’s don’t like change but prefer routine and predictability, and they love it when things just carry on the same from day to day. But they can often show signs of insecurity if their routine is disrupted.
So when a new baby arrives into the home, it can be very challenging for a cat and they may find it difficult to cope. But luckily this situation is not insurmountable – there are ways you can help.
RECOGNIZE STRESS-RELATED SIGNS
New furniture, buggies, cots, as well as new smells and sounds, lots of visitors and a disrupted routine – cats don’t like change, so all of these together can make a cat feel stressed and insecure.
Although your priority will be looking after your new baby, you should also watch out for signs that your cat is not coping with the new arrival.
- Have you noticed that your cat is hiding away for long periods of time?
- Are they spending more time outside (if they have outdoor access) and not coming indoors at their regular time?
- Are they being less tolerant about being handled?
- Or do they seem to be seeking attention more frequently – like staring at you? Or did they get your attention when they knocked something over – they may try this again.
- Have you noticed them overgrooming?
- Has their appetite changed?
- Or are they toileting outside the litter tray?
To avoid getting to this stage, make sure you prepare your cat in good time for the arrival of your new baby.
PREPARE YOUR CAT FOR THE NEW ARRIVAL
- Make the necessary changes to your home gradually. Introduce new objects, like baby toys, bath, buggies, chairs etc. one at a time. Allow your cat to investigate these in their own time so they can get used to them being around. However, if there are things that you want to keep away from your cat, e.g. the crib where your baby will sleep, make sure these are out of your cat’s reach or in a room where your cat is not allowed.
- Get your cat used to the sounds babies make with sound recordings. This will help when the baby arrives and they won’t be scared of the new noises that come with babies. Start with a low volume and increase it until your cat shows no interest and it will become a normal part of their life.
- Start introducing some baby smells around the house, like baby lotions, so that your cat will accept them when the baby arrives.
- If your baby is born away from home, you can introduce a blanket or muslin that has been close to your baby before your return. Your cat will be able to investigate this new object and get acquainted with the smell before you return.
- Your routine will undoubtedly be affected by the new arrival, so consider asking someone else to take over the responsibility of ensuring the cat’s routine is maintained – that they are fed at the same time, their resources are replenished and the cat litter is changed regularly.
- A cat loves to feel secure, so make sure they can still access their favourite places, like tops of cupboards or shelves – and you may even give them a few extra places to hide, like a cardboard box.
- They also need continued easy access to their other resources – if the location of any of these needs to change, try and do this gradually over time before your baby arrives.
- FELIWAY Optimum provides your cat with enhanced security for 30 days. The message of reassurance it provides will support your cat as they welcome all the changes your new baby brings.
HELP YOUR BABY AND CAT LIVE IN HARMONY
When your baby arrives home, your cat may disappear for a while, and then come and investigate on their own terms. Never force them to come close to the baby and never leave them unsupervised together.
Always build on positive associations between your cat and your baby – have rewards to hand so you can reward your cat when they are showing calm and relaxed behaviour around your baby.
Even though your life with a new baby will be hectic, it’s important to continue to spend time with your cat – this can be playing or grooming them, or even just allowing them to sit on your lap when they ask. Or, if you are having some relaxing time with your baby, try playing with your cat at the same time! A fishing rod with a toy mouse to chase, or a laser pointer will keep kitty occupied and they won’t feel excluded.
Cats and babies can live in harmony with a little bit of preparation and patience. However, if you are concerned that your cat is not coping, consult a qualified behaviourist for advice and get your vet to check for any underlying medical issues that you may not have noticed.
Do Cats Get Jealous? (and What To Do About It When They Do)
Cat attacking another in your home? You’re probably wondering at this point: Could the aggressive cat actually be jealous? Do kitties experience jealousy in the same way that we do? Does the green-eyed monster of envy come in a feline version?
Good questions. And we have some answers for you.
Like many owners you may be wondering if Kitty’s strange — often hostile — behavior towards another cat, dog or even baby means the cat is jealous. In this article, we’ll take closer look at jealousy of the feline kind and see what this emotion actually is and how it affects cat.
And as always, we want to help cats and owners with practical advice too. So read through to see how you can help reduce your cat’s discomfort and aggressive behavior.
What is jealousy in cats?
«Did Kitty pee on the bed because she’s jealous of my new boyfriend?»
«Does my cat attack my other cat because he’s jealous of her?»
«Does my cat hiss at my new baby because she’s jealous?»
What is jealousy anyway ?
Jealousy is common in humans, and we all experience it from time to time.
It’s often defined as a hostile emotion over a perceived advantage someone else has.
Is jealousy always a bad thing? Not necessarily. In some cases it can be a good thing: Jealousy can motivate us to work harder.
However, jealousy is also known as «the green-eyed monster» because it can make people do horrible things. It’s certainly a complex experience for humans, involving a slew of conflicting emotions and thoughts.
The feline world is a much simpler one.
Cats definitely don’t experience jealousy in the human sense of the word. That said, negative behaviors, often aggressive ones, can be associated with a certain member of the cat’s household (human or animal). When we also perceive an advantage that family member has over the cat in question, we may interpret the behavior as jealousy.
So do cats actually get jealous?
Sometimes the cat’s behavior is indeed caused by competing over resources such as territory, food or the owner’s affection. When that is the case, you could say — at a stretch! — that the cat is jealous.
Other times, the cat is actually stressed over a change. Whatever has changed in Kitty’s surroundings scares her or him, leading to fear-induced aggression. We may be able to pinpoint the change to a newly adopted cat, a baby or a new boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean the cat is jealous of them. It’s more likely that Kitty just needs help with adjusting to the new situation.
Situations where cats appear to be jealous — and what to do about it
Let’s take a look at the common scenarios people ask about.
Is my cat jealous of my other cat?
When introducing cats to one another for the first time, we tend to expect some amount of hostility and aversion. That’s why introducing cats should be a very gradual process.
But what about cats who are already living together peacefully, only for one of them to start attacking the other? This is when many owners bring up jealousy as an explanation. The attacker must be jealous because the other cat is getting more attention, right?
Probably not. What you’re seeing may very well be a struggle for dominance. Cats have a hierarchy between them, and that «pecking order» can sometimes change, for any number of reasons. The way for a dominant cat to implement a «new world order» is by mock-attacking — and sometimes just attacking — the other cat.
There can be other reasons for sudden aggression. The attacking cat may be in pain, ill, or just stressed over something else. In that case, his or her «sibling» may be on the receiving end of redirected aggression.
What to do?
If one of your cats becomes aggressive to another resident cat, first rule out any medical problem. Look for these signs that your cat may be in pain, and if you suspect a health problem, call your veterinarian.
If the aggressor is healthy, try not to intervene . Most of these attacks are safe — even if loud! — «cat talk» that should be allowed to take place. The cats need to decide on their social hierarchy, and you have no vote on the matter. When they’re interacting, avoid reprimanding them and never shout or punish any cat in any way. If you do, they may associate the negative experience with each other, creating more problems down the road.
What you can do is make sure you offer enough resources for them to share. They should not have to compete over space, food or water. Make sure there are enough litterboxes (one for each cat and then another one for good measure). Provide enough food dishes (one per cat) and let them decide who uses which dish. Invest in more space by creating cat-friendly vertical space in your home. In short, minimize potential friction and let the cats work out their differences.
Is my cat jealous of the dog?
Does Fluffy attack Fido? If you’ve recently introduced a dog — particularly a small one — to your household, your cat is likely to try and fight off the intruder. That’s not jealousy per se. The cat doesn’t really care about you bonding with the dog — he or she just wants that noisy stranger out of there.
If the two pets were not properly introduced, that animosity can carry on for years. With some cats, even proper introductions won’t help much, and you’ll just have to accept some level of antagonism.
If the dog and cat had been getting along just fine and the cat suddenly becomes aggressive, suspect a medical condition and check to see if there are other symptoms. Any form of sudden aggression in a cat calls for a proper veterinary evaluation.
What to do?
Is my cat jealous of my boyfriend/girlfriend?
There are many ways in which a cat can show dislike towards a human. The cat may try to attack your new life partner or possibly just slink away.
Either way, this is probably something other than jealousy. Your cat is likely afraid of the newcomer. This could be because of a previous negative experience with that person or possibly a history of abuse by a different person of the same gender.
What to do?
Be very patient with your cat. Ask the person in question not to approach the cat or initiate any interaction — including eye contact. Let them spend time in the same room as the cat, just sitting on the floor, reading a book and being quiet. With time, the cat will learn that this new person is not a threat and may approach them. When that happens, have your boyfriend/girlfriend offer treats and engage in interactive play sessions with the cat. Patience is key here — this will be a slow and gradual process!
If your cat is timid or shy, check out these tips. They can help your significant other understand your cat and offer ways for him or her to be Kitty’s new hero.
Is my cat jealous of my new baby?
The birth of a new baby can really affect Kitty’s life. Your home is filled with new scents as well as noises (some very shrill!), and everyone’s schedule is disrupted. These changes can be stressful for your cat.
Cats rarely attack babies though. Newborns are just too small and passive for a cat to see as a threat. Instead, owners may see stress-related behaviors. Your cat may pee outside the box, become more vocal or spend her or his days in hiding. That’s not jealousy — that’s simply stress.
What to do?
My cat peed on. — is he jealous of.
We mentioned peeing outside the litterbox earlier, but it’s worth elaborating on.
When a cat pees on an object, or in a certain area, it can be tempting to assume Kitty is doing it out of spite or motivated by jealousy.
«Cat peed on my boyfriend’s shoes? She must be jealous of him!» «Cat peed in the nursery? He must be jealous of the new baby!» «Cat peed on my bed? She must be jealous of the new cat who’s sleeping there.»
Sorry to disappoint, but cats are not that manipulative.
Peeing outside the litterbox can be for any number of reasons, but taking revenge on a person is not one of them.
In many cases, there is a medical explanation behind the inappropriate elimination, and that problem can be difficult to diagnose. Problems with how the litterbox is set up can also be at the root of the problem, as can be overall stress. Very often it’s a combination.
Sounds tricky? It can be. If you’re dealing with a litterbox avoidance problem, check out this article: How To Solve Litterbox Problems In Cats: The Ultimate Guide
Think your cat is jealous? Maybe we can help!
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