11 Rules For Having Your Cat Around My Baby
I firmly believe that every person — especially, perhaps, every child — needs a self-proclaimed "crazy cat person" in their life. For my kids, that's their grandmother (my mom). For me, growing up... it was also my mom. I love that lady and, thanks to her fanatical love of felines, I also love cats. But there are rules for having your cat around my baby that I think the cat people and the baby people need to get on board with, because this is only going to be fun if we work together.
Babies and cats are remarkably similar creatures in many ways: they're adorable, they're entirely self-centered, and they're both less-than-rational tiny things who live mostly on instinct and curiosity. Babies are great, cats are great, but babies and cats together can be a really difficult combination of "unpredictably" and "predictably tough."
This isn't a slate of demands about having my precious infant around your mangy fleabag. This is a list of ideas and suggestions to make the union between all our assorted babies get along as well as humanly (and non-humanly) possible. So what can we do to set ourselves up for success? Let's all be mindful of the following:
Let's Not Make This A Contest
I feel like that should be pretty clear, even if it's unspoken, but let's speak it just to be super clear: the whole "pet versus baby" debate is so absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary. They're completely different (if emotionally similar) experiences that don't need to be compared, quantified, or justified. My child is not an affront to your pet ownership, and your pet ownership is not something I'm interested in criticizing because I'm a parent. Let's all just snuggle our chosen living thing and be happy we're getting snuggles that make us happy.
Don't Bring Your Cat Over Without Asking First
To be fair, this is almost never an issue for cat people because one of the huge benefits of having a cat is having a pet who is happily left to their own devices for a while. But, again, this is all about being very up-front and clear about things that maybe we think we don't have to say out loud but will: if you need your cat to come with you for whatever reason, please ask before you show up at my doorstep.
In my case, I'm totally fine with it, but other people might have allergies, apprehensions, conflicting pets, or just plain don't want a cat in their house (or around their baby), all of which are perfectly valid reasons to deny your request.
If You Invite Me Over, Please Work With Me
Unlike a cat, I cannot (and am not legally allowed to) leave my baby alone in the house for a few hours with a food bowl and litter box. So if you invite me over just to hang out, particularly before my child is a certain age, there's a good chance I will have to bring them. That's not to say I'm going to be schlepping them along every time we get together. If you're having, say, a fancy dinner party, I can get a sitter. Or perhaps there are times when I take a few hours one day to hang out while my partner stays home with the baby. But I can't just drop in all the time sans baby. So if you've invited me over and accepted that I'll have to bring my baby or not come (it's not a threat or a tactic, it's a matter of practicality), then I'm just going to need some help from you regarding your kitty.
Allergies Are Real
While some adults can power through a pet dander allergy when they're over a cat or dog owner's house, a baby cannot. Babies lack the intellectual development to be like, "OK, this is my allergy flaring up and it's temporary, so I can muscle through for my friend." They also lack a lot of the self-soothing techniques that adults and even older children culture over the span of years. So if a parent says, "My baby (whom you have invited into your home) is allergic to cats, can we please be separated from the cat while we're here?" please acquiesce to their request.
Be Clear About What You're Comfortable With
Look, if it's not going to work out it's not going to work out and, hey, that's completely OK. You're entitled to have your space (and all the kitties in it) the way you want it! So if you're not comfortable accommodating a child in your cat paradise home, say so. A reasonable person will get it. But if you're going to say, "No, come over with your baby, it's fine," and it's not fine... just don't. Because it's going to be tense and weird and no one wants you anxious and uncomfortable in your own house. We're adults. We'll figure something out.
Babies Do Not Distinguish Between Litter Boxes & Sand Boxes
So if you've agreed to host a little one in your house, here are some tips you may not think of but probably should. If a baby isn't mobile yet, you're solid. Things are much easier. If the kid can get around, they will get around. And just because you don't touch the litter box unless you absolutely have to doesn't mean the child won't think this is a wonderful box of turd-filled delights. Pandora opened a box full of all the world's woes, and a baby will happily dig through a box of all the world's poo. I'd keep the two as separate as possible. If that's impossible (studio apartment, perhaps? Or an old cat who will pee on the floor if the box moves) clean it before your guests arrive.
Babies Do Not Distinguish Between Cat Food & Human Food
So, again, if you can keep this in another room go for it.
If Your Cat Is Mean, Please Isolate Them Or Don't Invite Us Over
Look, zero judgment, people. My cat, my dearly departed Pigeon, was a massive jerk. He had about 500 neon stickers on his file at the vet saying "Danger!" and "This cat will bite!" and "Aggressive!" It's not that he wasn't my darling boy or was undeserving of love and care... but he was a mean you-know-what. If you have such a cat and you know they're not going to be kind to even a particularly kind baby (let alone a typical one) then please don't hope for good behavior. Instead, pre-empt any likely unpleasant behavior by either not having us over or by simply putting the cat somewhere comfortable while we're over.
I Will Do My Best To Keep My Baby's Grabby Baby Hands Away From Your Cat, So Please Do The Same For Your Cat's Claws & Teeth
There's a decent chance that even a nice interaction can at some point go awry, and I won't take that personally if you won't. But let's do our best to make sure it doesn't get to that point however we can.
I Hope You Realize I'll Really Try On My End
Please trust that I don't think my baby has the right to treat your cat like garbage... but I can't actually control each and every one of my child's physical movements. So if they grab your cat's tail or go from gently petting to haplessly whacking your cat, I'm very sorry. I'll do everything I can to prevent and correct the behavior, but babies don't really have a great sense of their own physical space yet, let alone their encounters with animals, so they might wind up being awkward.
I'll Assume You're Doing Your Best
Hey, man, cats are cats. They're notorious finicky and they can go from happy and purring one minute to hissing and scratching the next. It's not their fault: they're cats! And I'm not going to think your cat is evil or that you're a bad cat owner if something goes unexpectedly badly. I know you're managing the situation as best you can. The important thing is we're all working together and doing our part to try to make this work.