It’s true, we do occasionally have cats surrendered to the humane society because of cat-infant conflict. And it seems to be happening a little more than usual lately. What’s the actual problem in these cases? We’ve been hearing this complaint: the cat keeps jumping into the crib.
Seriously? Not to take anything away from the intelligence and determination of the feline, but I still maintain that in the vast majority of cases, the human has the upper hand. And compared to a lot of real cat behavior problems, “the cat wants to get in the crib” is an easy one.
First let’s talk about the actual danger. Not sure it’s necessary to say, but just in case . . . hear me now: cats do not suck the life out of babies. No way - no how. Don’t believe it.
Nevertheless, I am a strong supporter of the rule that infants and pets should NEVER be allowed to interact unsupervised, and thus appreciate the need to prohibit the family cat from the crib. Cats have claws and teeth. Babies move, grab, make strange noises, and can’t be expected to know how to properly interact with animals. Designating the crib as a Cat-Free Zone is an excellent way to prevent injury and promote harmony.
So, what’s a new parent to do? Here are a few suggestions:
(1) Don’t panic. Oftentimes cats will find something new--be it a piece of furniture, a cardboard box, or a crib--very intriguing. Don’t worry that just because the cat initially shows intense interest in the crib (or the baby) that this “obsession” will persist. Once the novelty wears off, the cat’s interest will wane.
(2) If at all possible, allow the cat to explore and get used to the new baby furniture prior to the baby’s arrival.
(3) Give the cat supervised opportunities to become familiar with the baby too.
(4) Recognize that even though your new baby requires all your energy and attention, the cat is still expecting the same level of interaction he/she enjoyed before the baby came. Try to make time for the cat too – cats are social animals. A cat that is starved for interaction can become quite demanding and persistent.
(5) Here's an easy one: Get a baby monitor and keep the door to the baby’s room closed when you are leaving the baby alone.
(6) If you don’t like option #5, consider restricting the cat to certain areas/rooms in the house by using doors or baby gates. Tall baby gates are available, though it could be a little tricky to find a gate that will stop a young athletic feline (a.k.a. a climber). Still, it can be done.
(7) Get a crib tent! Crib tents are made of mesh fabric and make it impossible for cats to get into the crib. They also have a zipper so that mom or dad can get easy access to the baby.
Check out the crib tents made by Tots In Mind: http://www.totsinmind.com/
And finally . . .
(8) Do some research and/or get some help. Just google “cat and baby” and you’ll find a bunch of websites with advice. I recommend starting at the ASPCA website: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cats-and-babies.html