Every cat owner knows that each cat has a personality of their own, some are cuddly, others are food beggars, and there are those who seem to also be the jealous type.
These cats crave attention and when they don’t get what they want they may act out. But what happens if you bring someone else into your life that’s in need of way more attention…like a baby.
Do cats get jealous of babies? Cats can get jealous of newborn babies because they’re no longer the center of attention. With major life changes like a baby, routines can change drastically and some cats may show stress-related behaviors including a bit of jealousy.
Sadly, some families give up their cats when they’re expecting, or if the jealous cat misbehaves.
If you want to know more about your cat’s jealousy tantrums, explore where these feelings are coming from and how to stop the jealous behaviors then keep on reading!
Do Cats Get Jealous Of Babies?
Cats are creatures of habit where even the smallest of changes in their environment or their day-to-day routine can lead to stress and anxiety. A baby can be the most beautiful event in your life, and while some cats will be happy to share this happiness with you, others will see the baby as a threat to a life they’ve known so far.
The jealousy your cat is feeling once the baby arrives is normal. While cats might not necessarily experience this feeling like we humans would, or in its full complexity, it’s definitely similar. It’s clear that our feline companions don’t want to lose their territory which includes both their environment, certain objects, and their humans. What’s also notable is the fact that all of these “processions” offer our cats the feeling of security and safety.
A continually distressed cat will not only show signs of jealousy but can also develop behavioral problems as the baby grows. That’s why it’s important to help your cat feel emotionally secure within the growing family.
Why Do Cats Get Jealous?
Behind the feeling of jealousy, you’ll usually find insecurity and the fear of losing one’s possessions or safety. For your kitty, you are that safety and while this dynamic has been working for you and your cat so far, in certain situations like the arrival of your newborn baby, it can bring forth negative emotions rooted in fear.
So, why some cats walk the jealous path?
How accepting a cat is of other humans, as well as pets mainly comes down to their socialization as kittens. This tender period, the first 9 weeks, is crucial and will affect your cat’s social development, and in the long term, how they will react to a new baby.
Debra Horwitz, DVM states that “kittens that are stimulated and handled from birth are more confident, more social, more exploratory, faster to mature and are better able to handle stress as they develop.” She also adds that “the greater exposure a kitten has to humans of all ages, other pets, and novel situations, the better adjusted that kitten will be.”
Our cats are also capable of forming a secure or insecure attachment, a pattern that can be observed both in children and dogs. Basically, this means that your kitty can be socialized to be clingy and that they may look to you for security especially when they feel stressed out. But when naturally you’re absorbed into this new parenting role, your cat will begin to feel left out. Once the focal point of their owner, your cat will feel anxious as the dynamics change and they’re no longer the center of your world.
My years of experience being a cat parent have shown me that my kitties are capable of creating bonds with each other and with me, and when someone gets more attention then they’re also perfectly capable of expressing their jealousy.
If you think about it we as cat parents are part of their environment and our role is to entertain them, give them cuddles, and make sure that their necessities are being met. Changes in our behavior and the established environment, whether it’s you not having the time to play with your cat or suddenly changing their feeding schedule because you’ve got all your attention on your new baby can cause feline behavioral issues stemming from jealousy.
Moving or removing their personal possessions from their usual spot can also add to their frustration. For example, if you turned the spare room where you kept your cat’s litterbox and other belongings, into the new nursery will feel like a major change. It’s a loss of territory and in a sense of their personal safety.
It’s completely understandable that a baby takes up the majority of a parent’s attention, and this can result in an overlooked litterbox, a forgotten meal, and a lack of hunting games. These and the insufficient tenderness your kitty were used to can cause behavioral problems, such as aggression and self-destructive behaviors.
Signs Of Jealousy In Cats
The way a cat will manifest their jealousy towards your baby can come in different ways.
Signs Of Aggression
Coming through the door you might notice a change in their body language straight away.
An anxious cat: Will be crouching down, with a tense body, and the tail tucked against it. The pupils are usually dilated, the ears are flattened to the head and drawn back.
An unhappy and angry cat: Usually is standing, with their body held sideways, an arched back, and the fur raised. The eyes and ears are similar to an anxious cat, but the mouth might be open and tense with their teeth showing.
Another cat might need more time to realize that the dynamic in the household has changed and that they’re not receiving the usual attention. You might find your cat physically coming between you and your baby’s room as their frustration grows. Or they might only react in such a way when you’re holding the baby. Some cats might redirect their aggression towards other objects, and pets, or simply when they’re approached by you or your partner, swatting and scratching to keep everyone away.
All these behaviors can be seen as aggressive, but for cats, it’s a defensive mechanism since they most likely feel threatened by the new baby. According to the ASPCA “Cats’ territorial aggression is usually directed toward other cats, but it can be directed toward dogs and people, too.”
Aggressive behaviors because of jealousy are easy to spot, and they can occur from the moment you bring your baby home, or they might develop over time, but not all cats will show signs of aggression. One of the most common behavioral problems in cats is feline inappropriate elimination. Debra Horwitz, DVM explains that “some cats will eliminate on horizontal surfaces when they are frustrated, stressed, or anxious.”
Your kitty might start soiling outside of the litterbox, pee in different areas or objects around the house especially next to the nursery, or simply scratch at the litterbox excessively.
If none of the above symptoms sound familiar, then perhaps your cat uses their meowing to voice their frustration at the arrival of the new tiny human. You might notice your cat yowling in another room, as a way to demand your attention away from the baby.
Excessive meowing can be your cat’s first reaction to the lack of pets and treats, but if their needs aren’t met this frustration can lead to destructive behaviors such as overgrooming, known as feline psychotogenic alopecia. Debra Horwitz explains the reasons behind this behavior by saying that “as with other compulsive disorders, feline psychogenic alopecia may begin as a displacement behavior arising from situations of conflict, frustration or anxiety, but might in time become compulsive.”
Some cats will also become less active, reclusive, and might avoid spending time with their owners. Some might refuse to eat, and even develop medical conditions from this stressful situation.
How To Prepare Your Cat For Your Baby’s Arrival
To reduce the chances of your kitty feeling jealous towards your newborn angel, it’s important to take this matter into your own hands from early on, even before the baby is there.
This way not only will you be in control over your cat’s reaction while you’re pregnant, but you’ll also have set the right foundation for when your baby will arrive, thus minimizing any jealous reaction!
Before Your Baby Is Home
Having a good understanding of your own cat can greatly help you predict your cat’s reaction. Knowing the answers to questions like, is your cat extremely clingy, do they tend to react more aggressively when something doesn’t go their way, or have they used unwanted behaviors as a coping mechanism during stressful situations, like moving, should give you an advantage. But remember even the most chill cat can become jealous.
So instead of setting the house a few days prior to the baby’s arrival do it long before that happens. Make sure you set up your baby’s furniture as early as possible and let your cat smell everything in the nursery until they’re no longer interested. Once the baby is on its way make the room undesirable by placing double-sided sticky tape on the surfaces, including the crib so your kitty doesn’t try to sleep in it.
Use positive reinforcement by giving them a treat whenever they listen to your instructions at staying away from the crib and even the room altogether. If the nursery used to be your cat’s room, then slowly move the litterbox and the rest of their stuff to a new location. Give them time to claim this new territory while they disconnect from their old room.
Some of my friends used to play tapes of baby noises so their cats could get used to these sounds, and they had friends with children come over a few times so their kitty could get a preview of what they might expect.
Finally don’t forget to change your cat’s routine, way before the baby arrives. Change the feeding routine, or consider getting an automatic cat food feeder, so your kitty never stays without food. Even though I don’t have children I still found even if I was away from home! This can help one of the most important routines in place.
Grooming and playing sessions should also change according to the schedule of a new parent. It might take some time for your kitty to get used to these changes, but at least they will not associate them with the baby, which can greatly reduce their jealousy and defensiveness.
After Your Baby Is Home
Once you have a routine that works for your cat, it’s important to keep the same positive atmosphere for your feline friend even after the baby is born. I imagine how hectic it can be, especially at the beginning, with a new baby in the house, but what your kitty needs to understand is that they’re not going to lose you, their territory and that the baby is something positive.
So, make sure your kitty becomes familiar with your baby’s scent. You can do this by placing used baby blankets or clothes around the spots where your cat sleeps and eats since these two activities are the most pleasurable for all animals. Take turns with your partner to play with your kitty or ask a friend they feel comfortable with to fill in the gap, so the same schedule is maintained more or less.
Don’t punish your furry friend even if they act out because they’re not doing it to be mean. Instead of shouting at them try to figure out what triggered this behavior. The baby alone isn’t always the problem, it’s usually the lack of attention from the owners or neglect towards their basic needs. Marking their territory, or showing signs of problematic behaviors is their way of asserting themselves.
Don’t forget to reward your pet with a treat, a hunting game, and a pat when they seem relaxed and are well behaved. Always be present when your cat is in the same room with your baby, and it’s best to keep the nursery off-limits. You can simply close the door to the nursery, or if there’s no door use a temporary screen door or place a crib tent over the crib to keep your jealous furry friend out.
How To Stop Your Cat’s Jealous Behavior?
Whether you’ve tried to prepare your kitty for your baby’s arrival or not, it’s possible that they’ll still exhibit jealousy. That’s why it’s important to know how to handle problematic behaviors as soon as possible.
1.Determine The Cause
The first step you need to take in order to deal with your cat’s jealousy is finding what exactly is triggering this negative reaction. Of course, the pregnancy and the arrival of the baby could be a part of it, but your kitty is most likely associating the baby with negative emotions.
Try to be observant of your cat and establish when they react in a destructive way. Is it the lack of attention on your part, have they lost access to your bedroom, or you haven’t been paying enough attention to their litterbox?
You might be thinking that your baby is the main cause behind your cat’s jealous reaction, but it could be something very small and it will most likely have to do with your own behavior or the state of their environment.
2.Spend More Time With Your Cat
By finding your kitty’s trigger-points you will most likely find the ways to establish a new harmonious balance in which your cat, you, and your baby can coexist peacefully. But most of the time the way to win their furry heart back and turn their frown upside down is by giving them more love.
Usually, people get jealous when they lose something, to someone else, and when a baby enters your life you can’t help but give all your attention to their needs. This leaves your feline companion in a lonely state. For our cats, we’re a social and loving outlet, this means that they also crave our attention in the form of plays, or cuddles. So, take the time to give your kitty the attentiveness they crave.
Having a newborn baby can be difficult, but you and your partner could try and set aside a few minutes a day to pet your cat and play with them. Even if you invest some money on extra toys, and the best catnip, your cat will still need you!
3.Give Your Cat Personal Space
While cats do need our attention, it’s important to understand that what some cats might lack isn’t just a few petting sessions, but a more cat-friendly environment. Once you’ve established your baby’s territory, you’ll need to make sure that your cat also has their own space to express their natural behaviors.
Cats crave safety and using the litterbox or eating are vulnerable positions in which they need to feel secure. So, make sure to keep their litterbox, water, and food bowl in separate and quiet areas around the house. It’s also normal to have plenty of visitors coming over to see your baby, so make sure to provide your cat with plenty of cozy hiding spots. Invest in a tall cat tree since cats love to explore their surroundings from up above, and if you have a yard or a large enough balcony, see if you can invest in a catio, for that extra feline mental and physical stimulation!
Finally, if you find your kitty showing signs of aggression, try to give them some time and space instead of pressuring them, or showering them with pets. You might end up getting hurt by your cat’s flight or fight state, simply make sure that they have an exciting environment where they can find their inner balance.
4.Train Your Cat To Accept Your Baby
It might come as a surprise to some of you that cats can be trained, but they truly are capable of learning new tricks and stopping unwanted behaviors, as long as it’s done right. Ellis, the co-author of The Trainable Cat tells us that owners subconsciously train their cats every day, but since it’s not a conscious decision the results are oftentimes the opposite of what they might want.
Shouting and using force to stop a cat from being jealous of your baby is definitely not going to work, instead, you’re “inadvertently giving the cat attention, which, in the cat’s mind, is better than nothing, and so it’s rewarding,” says Mikel Delgado, an established cat expert.
Instead what you need to do is use positive reinforcement to help your kitty associate your baby with positive feelings, instead of the negativity that jealousy brings. As I mentioned before leaving your baby’s old clothes in their favorite stops or next to their food, can help with scent association. Once your cat feels more comfortable around you when you’re holding the baby you can use treats as a reward. When you feel more confident you can carefully let them get closer to the baby, and if your cat is still relaxed, well then you might even let them smell the baby.
Reward the behavior you like and discipline them with a firm no while removing them from the room for a few seconds. A long pet and a treat, whenever you’re holding the baby or you’re near their crib, will take you a long way and might help dissolve the jealousy and insecurity they’re feeling.
With time you might find your cat being affectionate even protective of your baby. If you see your feline companion rubbing against the crib or against you when you’re holding the newborn then take it as a positive sign! Some of course might simply be indifferent to the new life you’ve brought to this world.
This cat is probably unimpressed by the lack of fur!
5.Consult A Cat Behaviorist Or Veterinarian
Some cats are easily persuaded and with the right attitude you might help them get over the jealousy they once felt for the newborn baby, but if the aggression or problematic behaviors persist don’t be afraid to ask for professional help.
Cats can act out in numerous situations, and cat owners might not have the right knowledge or even tools to manage such behaviors. Veterinarians or cat behaviorists on the other hand are usually the perfect experts of the feline psyche and can point you in the right direction.
If possible you could look for a feline behaviorist in your area and ask them to come over to your house so they can observe your cat’s jealous tantrums, assess the situation, and give you helpful advice. And don’t forget the sooner you get help the easier the whole process should be!
Who could expect that even the most relaxed kitty can become the green-eyed monster competing for your love against your own baby?
It is of course a natural behavior that even other humans can display, and fortunately, we have the power to help our kitties by providing them with lots of affection and attention and showing them that they’re still an important part of the family!
Now tell us what role your kitty took over when you brought your baby home? Did they turn into a cat-mother or into an older and jealous child?