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Cats and babies/toddlers- advice?


JesSky03
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So my son is just shy of 2 and all 3 of my cats HATE him. Like they are so terrified of him they will hide under our bed all day when he is home and only come out after he's gone to bed. They were actually fine with him when he was a baby and I even have pictures of them snuggling him but as soon as he learned to walk and talk they were done. Part of the problem is I cannot seem to teach my son to be quiet and gentle with them. No amount of role modeling the correct behavior, correcting/disciplining, or even role playing with stuffed animals can get him to stop yelling at the cats and then chasing them whenever he sees one. The frustrating part is that he LOVES "kitty-cats" and gets excited whenever we see one in a book or on TV and during those times I can get him to talk softly and say "hi kitty" all sweet and soft and he'll pet and kiss his stuffed kitties but the real ones get "HEY! HEYYYYYY!" and then get chased when they inevitably run away. This is all compounded by the unhelpful dog who normally leaves the cats alone but his prey drive must kick in when they run because then he joins in on the fun further chasing and barking at them. 

I am due with baby #2 in just 16 short days. Baby will be staying in our room for the first several months so I worry about how this will impact the cats since that is currently their only safe space. I'd ideally lock them out at night and during naps to ensure they don't lay in the crib with baby but I'm not sure that will be possible if they refuse to come out from under the bed. Our house isn't that big and there really isn't anywhere else I can offer them as a safe space. They do have access to my office which the kid usually stays out of and it does have a baby gate with a cat door on it but they have to come thru the kitchen and living room where we normally are hanging out to get there so they mostly avoid it during the day. 

So idk if there is anything I can do really, just wondering if anyone else has been thru this and if they found a solution or do we just have to wait for our son to mature and grow out of this? 

Proof that they haven't always hated him:

20180505_110002.thumb.jpg.f2f47e876b851b3721704183720286e0.jpg

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My human niece loves my fur niece TK. The feeling is not mutual. TK will go to ridiculous lengths to avoid being in the same room as my human niece.

My sister in law and my brother don’t try to force a relationship and hope that sooner or later TK will come around and not despise my niece...at least as much. When the two are together in a room they watch the interactions to make sure my human niece isn’t bothering TK.

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My daughter is 7 yrs old. She had always been very respectful of our cats. Even as a very young kid she always understood what was the right way to treat them was. She developed an especially strong bond with one of our older cats that would always follow her everywhere around the garden. When a three years later the cat fell ill with a painful cancer my daughter was the only one that managed to catch her so we could do perform medications that for her were painful. Till her last day she couldn't resist letting daughter catch her even if she knew that the medication she hated was on the way. But the thing is all our cats have been outside cats (we have a gigantic garden surrounded by fields and climate isn't particularly harsh) so they have always been able to just disappear if they didn't feel very social in that moment.

Fast forward to now, my daughter is 7 yrs old and my sister has 2 young cats in her apartment. They like my daughter considerably less than our cats. Being in a tiny apartment they can't really run away when they feel she's being too much. She good and treats them very lovingly, but she's a kid, she moves suddenly, cuddles tight and is loud. Cats just don't like it. So, while they don't avoid her and often play with her, after a while they are just over.

Edited by laPapessaGiovanna
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You can't force a relationship. Some cats don't like change, and some cats will never like children. Our old cat hated the kids (we had him for five years before we had kids). He mostly hung out in our room during the day and roamed the house at night when the kids were in bed. We mostly kept the kids contained in the living room, the playroom and their bedrooms. The cat's food and litter box was in the laundry room- a place that the kids were not allowed in when they were young. The laundry room was his other safe space- we had a baby gate up that he was able to jump over. He was a cat that could jump quite high, and stayed on high surfaces (tops of the cabinets, top of the fridge, balcony railing, etc) so that the kids would not touch him. My youngest child probably never touched the cat, because by the time she was born, he wanted nothing to do with the kids.

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@keen23,  It sounds like your cat is a "tree-dweller" as Jackson Galaxy terms those kitties that love to be up high.  Bush-dwellers are the ones who lay low.  

If I can find my copy of Jackson's book Total Cat Mojo this afternoon,  I'll see if he has anything to say that might be helpful @JesSky03.  It's not where I thought it was.  

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I definitely don't try to force a relationship between them. I used to be able to hold them and talk calmly and my son would be able to pet them a little but that's definitely not possible now. I just feel bad because the one cat has breast cancer and we aren't sure how much time she has and it sucks that her final years are being spent cooped up in our bedroom. And its not going to get better for the other two anytime soon- we are open to having another kid(s) after this one so its not like we will be out of the toddler years anytime soon so its just going to get even more chaotic around here. Before adding anymore kids we will need a bigger house so maybe that will help but its going to be at least another 2 years before that happens. 

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@JesSky03,  I am so sorry about your cat with breast cancer.  Please give her a her a scratch behind her ears or under the chin or whatever form of petting that she likes for me.

I think my copy of Total Cat Mojo has fallen behind a bookcase.  I can get it out, but it will take some time.  Jackson Galaxy does have some videos on Youtube dealing with various cat issues and he also has some advice on his website.  I think that the website has an article on cats and kids.  I know there's a chapter in Total Cat Mojo about that topic.

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I finally found my copy of Total Cat Mojo a few minutes ago.  I'll read what Jackson says about cats and toddlers and summarize it tomorrow.  

I do know that part of what Jackson recommends is to catify your home, ie, make it a safe and inviting place for the cats while not making it uninviting for the people.  Right now, Jackson is offering a free copy of his book Catify to Satisfy for free with any purchase from his website.  I don't know if this only for today or the offer lasts for a few days.  Not trying to push you into a purchase, but I thought t might be something that you would find useful.  

Jackson Galaxy

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My new fur nephew London really liked my niece when my sister in law went to Des Moines to visit my sister. He was very tolerant when she touched him. Marvel man wasn’t as thrilled by her presence. My sister said he was scared of my niece.

I’m going down in a couple weeks to see my sister and brother in law provided the weather cooperates. And of course bother the fornicate out of their cats. I hope my camera and iPhone are ready to take lots of pictures.

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I looked at the section about Kidzillas aka toddlers and cats in Total Cat Mojo today and this is what Jackson says.

Catification is key.  The Cat Superhighay (cat trees, shelves, ramps, etc) gives the cats a way to navigate their space and be out of reach of the toddler at the same time.  It's important that the cats feel safe.  

Every interaction between the cats and your son need to be supervised for both their sakes.   No exceptions!

It is best to plan the supervised interactions at low energy times:  either after a play session for the cats, when their excess energy has been expended or just before naptime or bedtime for your son.  You want both cats and kid to be at their mellowest.

Any petting should be guided by you.  You can take his hand and let him touch or stroke the cat.  Teach him that cats usually respond best to stroking around the head (behind the ears, under kitty's chin), but that most cats do not like a head to tail pet as it is overstimulating to them.  It's also good to teach him about just offering his finger and letting the cat pet him.  Jackson calls this the Michelangelo or Finger-Nose techinque.  

You can use a baby gate to keep your son away from the cat box.  You can mount it a little off the floor to allow the cats to go under it or they might jump over it. 

Jackson also advises making the nursery a Junior Base Camp where both baby and cats hang out.  If they have a cat superhighway set up in the nursery and feed them in there as well, the cats will learn to accept the baby more easily.  

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 1/15/2020 at 10:40 PM, PennySycamore said:

I looked at the section about Kidzillas aka toddlers and cats in Total Cat Mojo today and this is what Jackson says.

Catification is key.  The Cat Superhighay (cat trees, shelves, ramps, etc) gives the cats a way to navigate their space and be out of reach of the toddler at the same time.  It's important that the cats feel safe.  

Every interaction between the cats and your son need to be supervised for both their sakes.   No exceptions!

It is best to plan the supervised interactions at low energy times:  either after a play session for the cats, when their excess energy has been expended or just before naptime or bedtime for your son.  You want both cats and kid to be at their mellowest.

Any petting should be guided by you.  You can take his hand and let him touch or stroke the cat.  Teach him that cats usually respond best to stroking around the head (behind the ears, under kitty's chin), but that most cats do not like a head to tail pet as it is overstimulating to them.  It's also good to teach him about just offering his finger and letting the cat pet him.  Jackson calls this the Michelangelo or Finger-Nose techinque.  

You can use a baby gate to keep your son away from the cat box.  You can mount it a little off the floor to allow the cats to go under it or they might jump over it. 

Jackson also advises making the nursery a Junior Base Camp where both baby and cats hang out.  If they have a cat superhighway set up in the nursery and feed them in there as well, the cats will learn to accept the baby more easily.  

My brother and sister in law have a gate that has a built in cat door that my niece can't get through but the cat can - this allows TK to spend time away from my niece in the basement.  

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  • 6 months later...

Just came back in to provide an update: sadly our kitty with breast cancer passed away back in May. We were unfortunately away when it happened but I like to think it was peaceful since my MIL found her just curled up in one of the cribs like she was sleeping. I know cats can hide pain but I truly hope she was not suffering as she was behaving normally (never lost her appetite or anything like that) up until the day she passed. 

Our son is doing a little better with the other two cats and only occasionally gets carried away with bothering them. Lately its been poking them with a stick but he at least now understands consequences so poking with a stick= no more stick(don't even get me started on sticks being in the house in the first place) so he doesn't do it often. One cat will even willingly hang out in the living room now as long as my son ignores him. 

I do lock them out of the bedroom at night since the baby still sleeps with us but they are used to it now. One of them has decided the floor in my office is a litter box though so now they are getting locked out of there too. They don't mind the baby yet but it won't be long before she's walking and then I'm sure they will disappear again for a bit. Fingers crossed that by next summer we will be able to move into a bigger place and then we can all get some personal space back ?.

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