Why Are Cats Jealous of Newborn Babies?

By Cheryl-Anne Jenkinson
Are cats jealous of newborn babies?

Many people believe cats are jealous of newborn babies. They go to great lengths to protect babies from cats, believing cats will claw, bite, otherwise attack or "suck the breath from" babies. There are also many who believe cats lie on babies and suffocate them. All these behaviours are attributed to jealousy or even dislike of the baby.

Origin

Babies are intimidating to cats.

The origin of the belief that cats are jealous around newborns is a combination of actual experience related from person to person and undoubtedly embellished in the process-and common nonfactual folklore or storytelling. While there is truth in the assertion that cats and babies don't always get along, jealousy isn't usually the cause.

Cat Behavior Around Babies

A baby demands all your time now.

Nervous or anxious cats don't cope very well with babies, but they are just responding to change in their home. They hide or hiss when the baby cries or is brought into the room, lose their interest in food or play and can become antisocial. Some cats even urinate on the baby's toys and clothes-even on the baby himself if they can get close. All these are signs of stress, nothing more. On the other hand, some very confident cats might sleep alongside the baby.

Stress Triggers

Encourage cats to be familiar with the baby.

Stress-prone cats sense changes in the home even before baby arrives. Would-be parents are busy preparing a nursery and shopping for baby items. There's little time to focus on the cat and excitement and visitors can frighten the cat. When the baby arrives, the house becomes busier and there are strange scents and noises that affect the cat's behaviour.

Remedies

Cats aren't really jealous of babies.

Give your cat more attention even before the baby is born. When the baby arrives, remember to pet your cat. Reassure him as often as you can and keep the home peaceful. Encourage him toward the baby when it's sleeping. When the baby cries or is fractious, reassure your cat. Encourage your cat to rub his face and head on some baby clothes, furnishings and blankets; this will distribute his scent in the baby's vicinity, making the baby less threatening. Don't wash those items; leave them in or near the baby's room.

Useful Products

Obtain feline pheromone plug-ins from your veterinarian. These diffuse "contented cat" scents around your home, making cats feel less anxious. Putting one near the nursery will help. If your cat has sprayed in the home, neutralise the odour by steam cleaning and stay away from bleach-based solutions-these smell like cat urine and encourage further urination. Creating a calm home stops cat spraying.