Our “first” child came several years before our first child. Naturally when the news came that we would be parents we did wonder how this would affect the cat. I have to add that it wasn’t our first concern, but it did eventually come around. We had heard about pets becoming jealous and distressed when their domain is all of a sudden invaded by a tiny new ruler. Cots being used as litter trays, and simply giving in and re-homing themselves. Pets often are a member of the family, and so the thought of your family not getting on was troublesome.
We had no idea how the cat would react and we did little to prepare her for it despite having heard about playing the cat YouTube videos of babies crying. We avoided that, I’m not sure why, perhaps because we too were worried about becoming distressed by the sounds of what we were letting ourselves in for.
Our cat is generally quite social, and likes to be with people. Whenever she wants attention (always on her terms of course) she knows how to get it. Before the baby came my wife and I decided, naïvely, that when we would bring the baby home we would make sure that while one was with the baby the other would be with the cat. Without question we didn’t stick to this, its impossible to do so. Your attention is one hundred percent fixated on this new arrival who is thousands of time less independent than a cat, so the attention the cat got was limited to filling the food bowl and letting her outside, when we remembered.
But on those first few days, as we all had something new to get used to, the cat didn’t attempt to get our attention as she usually would, in fact she displayed a behavior we were not at all expecting. One time early on, when the baby began to cry, her nappy due for a change, I laid her on the changing table and the cat followed me into the room. In the beginning a nappy change was traumatic for our daughter, and it was invariably coupled with screaming, something that we thought would be distressing to the cat. Did the cat run away as expected? No. The cat stood up against my legs, peeking over at this tiny person who weight just half of what she did, and expressed an attentiveness we had never seen in her before. Following that, whenever the baby cried, the cat will bound in from the other room to make sure everything was okay.
We subsequently learned that all mammals young cry at the same frequency, and that what the cat was displaying was an instinctive reaction to her “kittens” in distress. It was, in a way, quite heartwarming to see this maternal instinct in her.
Weeks have passed and the reaction from the cat has mellowed, in much the same way ours has, as we have gotten used to life with a baby. The cat will sniff her now and again, have a look at what she’s doing, and I hope, feel proud of her new family member in the same way we do.