Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Cats and Babies

Cats and babies- as perfect a mix as peanuts and chewing gum. 

One does hear horror stories. "Cat hates the baby, clawed its face right off. Cat is jealous, decided to spray the cot. Cat just wanted to get warm so slept on babies head" etc...

I was lucky in that my two cats have been pretty much trained since the day we got them- they came housebroken, and have since learnt to obey simple commands such as sit, stay, outside and up- just like a dog. I'm not joking. I'm serious. I've trained my two cats. However, this post isn't about training kitties, but rather on how I got my two 'trainer babies' to accept the real baby. First, let me introduce you to two of the sweetest little fur-burgers.

Turpentine is a ginger tabby girl cat.

Omen is a chocolate and black boy cat.

They are our Love Cats.

Want to know more?

Though not of the same litter, they came home from the RSPCA and started their lives as the furriest Savage-Darlings together. They have been inseparable since. While Omen likes 'outside', Turpentine prefers 'inside', quietness and lap naps. 

Turpse (She's my Turpentine, soft furry tummy such a sweet surprise, purr so sweet make a grown man cry, sweet Turpentine) was always going to be the problem in the equation, for while from her 'housecat' description above you would think she would be accommodating to our new family member, turns out she lives by one motto: Normal is best.
Its incredible but true that Hunter made our house not normal for quite some time- and the new normal with Hunter is pretty far out compared to the old normal. In response TurpenSlime hid under the couch and refused to even sniff him for ages. Now she mostly ignores Hunter and only gets close to him if there are additional benefits to the proximity (hugs, a bit of turkey from my sandwich, a good breeze, dappled sunshine, belly rub).

Omen has always been a happy go lucky kinda lump. Dumb as a box of hammers, he'll greet anyone adoringly and get his purr on nice and loud. He was the first to introduce himself to Hunter, and since the initial sniff and circle has been all like "Hey littlest non-furry brother, you're alright". Omen will even allow Hunter to hold his tail, and doesn't mind if Hunter flails around next to him- Omen might be a little 'simple like Forrest Gump' but he has never scratched or lashed out at anyone. In the choice between fight or flight, flight is always Omen's option.

So how did I end up getting all furry and non furry members of my family to play nice? I'd like to think a fair bit of it was preparation. By the time I was six months pregnant I had started to reduce the amount of 'picking up', 'bear hugs' and 'lap time'. Not by a lot, but by a little, then a little more, until there were less like training babies and more like normal house pets. I was mildly deflated to realise that the cats actually preferred to be left to their own devices... 

In addition I readied my miaowsers for our +1 by getting all their worming and shots up to date, blocking off access to 'no cats allowed' areas in advance and bringing home Hunter's clothes from the hospital for the sole purpose of leaving them in 'comfort places' (the cat's fave spots- the lounge, the sunny patch by the back door, the carpet tree climber etc) for the cat's to smell and get familiar with.

Since Hunter has joined our family I have made a conscious effort to spend cat-only-time with the mew-pews, and promised Turpentine and Omen I would always stop to rub their belly. It sounds dumb but I talk to my cats and honestly feel that at times they get me- I'm not joking when I say they obey commands (I'll post a video soon). I joke that they are 'pussy whipped' by me, and they totally are, but in a loving way- they have never been hurt except for vaccinations.

Other things I do to ensure cat and baby cohabitation joy is to keep the cats out of Hunter's room and never allow them near him unless supervised. I don't lay Hunter directly on the carpet or rug because cat fur is to a babies face what tar is to feathers in a Wyle E. Coyote sketch. Instead I lay Hunter on a blankie- and vacuum the carpet, rugs, curtains and soft furnishings as often as I can. I find that putting these safeguards in place is more for my peace of mind than helping the cohabitation as the cats seem happy with the attention from me and the constant new smells brought into our house from baby life.

As Hunter grows and learns new skills I will move the cats litter tray and food into a non-accessible area, such as in the laundry behind a child screen. I will also teach Hunter about being 'gentle' and 'soft' with the cats and how to approach cat (or indeed any animal)- the simple steps of outstretching a hand, letting the animal sniff your hand, listening to and looking at the animals face make to ensure the animal is happy for you to touch it, and then gently stroking it on the head.

I'm so excited to watch my furry babies and my real baby interact- I'll definately capture the moment in photos when the interaction happens on a more mutually engaging level.

Purr, Miaow
Sandi D

1 comment:

  1. Small note about kids and animals after a lovely post: I have heard/read that it is best/safest to gently stroke under the chin rather than the head. An animal can't see what's happening when you put your hand over its head and could get agitated. Happy Training!


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