From Leslie Jones. She writes about urban motherhood every two weeks in her column TWB Poo (There Will Be Poo). You can email her at leslie[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter @ThereWillBePoo.
Before I had Baby, before I even married Husband, there was Cat. She was my fur-baby. After we all moved in together, Husband nicknamed her Angry. Some of our friends didn’t believe we actually had a cat because they’d never seen her; and those that had perhaps wished they hadn’t. I was enough for her, and the rest of humanity needed to stay at least four feet back. I was a little… concerned about how Cat would deal with the new addition to our family.
Cat mostly hid for the first few days after we brought Baby home from the hospital. She came out for an exploratory sniff or two, but she couldn’t really figure out what was going on. It was too small to be a human, but it definitely wasn’t another cat. Which was good, because she hated both of those things. Confounding.
Cat seemed to decide that whatever it was, it wasn’t big enough to cause too much concern. It just laid there most of the time and made weird sounds. Whatever, back to napping, butt-licking and tolerating Husband.
No, Cat’s Don’t Suck Babies’ Breath
I was worried about the old wives tale of cats sucking baby’s breath. Well, not worried, I knew it wasn’t really true, but I didn’t like the idea of this giant 12-pound cat cuddling up to my tiny six-and-a-half pound baby. I did some research about how to keep a cat out of a crib. There were some good ideas, like putting empty aluminum cans in the crib before the baby arrives so that if the cat jumps in, it will freak her out so much that she doesn’t try it again.
But it was too late for that, Baby was already IN the crib. I found a “crib tent” online that was supposed to cover the crib and be strong enough for a cat to sit on top without falling in. But some reviews were terrifying- stories of babies stuck in the mesh netting and possible strangulation. I decided to just keep Cat out of the nursery.
One night I was sleeping in the reclining rocker in the nursery and I left the door open. I had the rocker pulled right up to the crib so that I could put my hand on Baby’s belly and feel her breathing, of course. At some point I woke up and saw this giant shadow at the other end of the crib. Cat was just minding her own business, curled up as far away from the weird, smelly creature as she could get. I flipped out and threw Cat on the floor and woke Husband up in a complete frenzy. Cat never got near the crib again, but I decided to keep the nursery door shut at all times, until Baby was older, and bigger.
Now Baby is bigger, much bigger. She’s got a good eight pounds on Cat. And Cat has figured out, much too late, that this is, in fact, another human.
Baby just loves Cat. She enjoys showing this love by “petting” her, which is more like hitting in a swiping motion. And sometimes she enjoys “singing” to Cat, which is more like screaming in her face. Poor Cat. I try to show Baby how to pet gently, and to redirect her attention when it’s just getting to be too much for Cat. But Cat has had to endure quite a lot of Baby love.
Cat has deported herself with remarkable grace. Husband even gave her a new, less “angry” nickname. She tolerates Baby with patience I never knew she had. She gives me weary, old lady looks, but she puts up with being crushed in baby hugs and having her hair pulled out for a surprisingly long time before skulking off.
I feel that on some level she’s experiencing this whole mothering thing right along with me. She has sleepless nights, and hardly a free moment to herself; she can’t eat or use the bathroom without an attentive baby audience. She has her moments of frustration; and Cat has given Baby the occasional bat with her paw. But she has never hurt Baby in any way, and Baby just thinks she’s playing; much like how Baby seems to think it’s really funny when I say “no”.
It makes me feel a little guilty about the times I’ve sacrificed Cat to the whims of Baby in order to get a few minutes’ peace. I find Cat and set Baby down in front of her, and just say “Sorry Cat.” And I really am, but hey, it takes a village.
A Vet’s Advice
I asked my friend, Dr. Jann Elliott of Palisades Veterinary Clinic, if she had any advice for new parents with pets. She said that you should get ahead of the problem and seek your vet’s help.
“A major life and household change is coming, and your pet may need help adjusting. A consult with a trainer or behavioral veterinarian may be the next step, and your vet can guide you through that process. Most people expecting a baby already have a hunch that their pet has an anxiety issue, and that issue may be exacerbated by a newborn.
They may also have concerns about territorial, aggressive, or child-specific behavioral problems. Talk to your vet about troubleshooting specific issues you anticipate, or should look out for, given your pet’s personality. It is important to get a desensitization or training program going in advance, or even find a medication that helps your pet cope with household change, since you do not want to wait until the baby arrives home to tackle behavioral issues your pet may have with your child.”
If you are looking to add a furry friend to your household, Dr. Jann recommends Lucky Dog Animal Rescue and Homeward Trails Animal Rescue. Palisades Veterinary Clinic partners with both, and offers discounted medical and surgical care for the rescued pets. For a physical shelter, Dr. Jann loves Washington Animal Rescue League. “They also offer training classes and pre-screen the pets, classifying them into personality types to make it easier to pick an ideal match for each household.”
The smallish apartments we share with other humans and our furry friends in our beloved Borderstan often make space negotiations complicated. But furry family is worth the trouble. You do not have to find another home for your pet when baby comes. Baby safety is priority number one, but be smart and you can make it work.