Preparing Your Cat for a Change in the Family | PAWS Chicago

Preparing Your Cat for a Change in the Family

Making life transitions smooth for your cat.

Cats are incredibly sensitive to their environment.

Major changes such as switching owners and households can be dramatic and very stressful.

Cats are aware of even the smallest changes in your household. Feeding, cleaning, grooming, playtime and bedtime should all happen at the approximately the same time and place each day. Cats can accept change; they just don’t like it to happen abruptly. To reduce your cat’s stress as he transitions to his new home:

  • Plan Ahead: Allow time to make the change slowly. Take small steps and give your cat lots of positive attention and praise.
  • Start Small: Don’t make a big change too suddenly and don’t make too many changes at once. Incorporate familiar things as much as possible.
  • Watch for Signs of Stress: These include loss of appetite, over-grooming or a change in litter box habits. If you see these signs, take a few steps back and move more slowly with the changes.

It is important to stay committed to keeping your cat as a trusted and loved companion as changes occur in your life (moving, pregnancy, job changes, etc.). There are many resources to utilize during times of change that can make transitions smooth and comfortable for everyone.

Introducing a New Baby

Cats and babies can be the best of friends. To help your cat prepare for the newest member of the family, follow these quick tips:

  1. Set up the nursery as soon as possible. Let your cat explore the room during the process.
  2. Introduce your cat to the new scents that he will be living with once the baby is home. Begin using the powders, soaps and lotions you will use on your baby.
  3. Before the baby’s arrival, establish necessary changes in your cat’s routine. For example, it is not advisable to allow cats in a newborn’s room while the baby is sleeping. Now is the time to close the door and to teach your cat that this room is off limits.
  4. Invite friends with babies to visit or play sounds of a baby crying to desensitize your cat. Baby sounds may be the most frightening aspect of this new resident from your cat’s perspective.
  5. Before bringing your newborn home, bring an unwashed piece of clothing for your cat to smell so he gets used to the new smell.
  6. Once the baby is home, try to keep your cat’s routine as close to normal as possible. This means regular mealtimes and play sessions. Praise your cat and give him attention when the baby is in the room so your cat will associate the new member of the family with good times, not competition for attention.

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Introducing a New Love

From your cat’s perspective, he was once the recipient of nearly all your attention. Now, his role has been challenged. There are new smells in the house, a new voice and a stranger who has taken over some of his favorite resting spots.

It is no wonder that he exhibits his stress by hissing, swatting or biting whenever your new love makes an appearance.

Here’s how he or she can become friends with your cat:

  • Food: Have your new love feed your cat and remain in the room while he is eating. In the beginning, sit across the room and gradually move closer as your cat gets more comfortable with him/her.
  • Talk & Staring: Your new love should not stare at your cat until your cat is comfortable with him or her. It’s also best that your new love talk to your cat in soft, high tones.
  • Scent: Put a couple of your new love’s shirts by your cat’s favorite sleeping areas. Or wear his or her jacket or sweater while you are petting or playing with your cat.
  • Approach: Let your cat approach your new love. Forcing your cat to confront him will only increase the level of stress and question his place in the pack.
  • Playtime: Have your new love play with your cat with his favorite toys.

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Separation from a Family Member

To ease your cat through this transition, especially if it is the primary caretaker who will no longer be taking care of the cat, place an article of clothing with their scent on it in the cat’s bed.

Keep the cat’s routine as consistent as possible and be sure to spend extra time with your cat, giving love, attention and his favorite treats.

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