“You’ll need to get rid of your cats, you know.”
That was the message I heard time and time again as I shared the happy news that I was pregnant.
“Cats will steal the baby’s breath.” “The baby will have deformities if you clean the litter box.” “The cats will sit on the baby and crush it.”
When I DIDN’T “get rid” of my cats (5, at the time), I received sighs and disapproving glances. But what those folks didn’t seem to realize was that my cats are part of my family. I couldn’t rehome them any more than I could rehome my baby once she was born. And NOT rehoming them was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Now, sure, my cats liked to sleep in the crib in the nursery while we were awaiting the big day. And they were curious when there was suddenly a tiny human in the house. But, let me tell you, the first time my newborn daughter cried – I mean really wailed – all five cats took off in different directions as fast at they could. And from that moment on, they weren’t really all that keen on being close to the colicky baby.
Of course, we took some basic pre-cautions, as any family with an infant should do if there are animals in the household. But my daughter is now 8 years old, and she has a little brother who is 4, and I can unequivocally say our family is happier and more dynamic because we kept our cats.
HOW WE KEPT OUR BABIES SAFE
- My husband changed the litter box while I was pregnant. On the rare occasion I needed to do it, I wore a face mask and gloves and washed hands immediately after.
- While they were awake, our kids were never unattended. Yes, that means they would hang out in a bouncer chair while I took a shower, if necessary.
- Until our children were four years old, they slept with the door closed.
- We taught our children to never pull on tails, ears or fur and to never play rough with our cats.
- We taught our children the signs of a cat in play mode and how to play with them safely.
- We taught our children the signs of a scared cat and to leave them alone when they are stressed.
HOW OUR CATS BENFITTED OUR FAMILY
- Our kids learned about mortality. We’ve had to say goodbye to four kitties in our children’s lifetimes so far, and we also adopted one kitten, and they all helped our children learn about the cycle of life.
- Our kids learned empathy. They pick up on the kitties emotions of grief, anxiety, fear and happiness. We hear comments like, “Anakin is scared of thunder like me!”
- Our kids learned about consequences. I’d be lying if I said our kids never annoyed our cats. And once or twice, they didn’t read the signs and got batted or nibbled. Our cats never broke skin, but they reacted enough for our kid to learn our cat didn’t like that behavior.
- Our home is more engaging. Our son loves playing with a wand for the cats to leap for the feather on the end. He giggles when the cats get the zoomies. Our daughter is so proud when a cat crawls in bed and sleeps with her.
We love our little family – kids and cats and all – and would not change it for anything.
Have you balanced kids and cats in your home? If so, comment below and let us know about your experience!