Baby of Mine
For this month’s Pet Spotlight, we spoke with Charlotte about having a new baby in the home and introducing these changes to her beloved cat, Sylvester.
Charlotte and her husband Ben are first time parents to 6 week old Nathaniel living in Bonnie Glasgow. We were eager to know all about Sylvester and how he is dealing with sharing the spotlight with Nathaniel.
Charlotte can you tell us about your pets?
We have two! Sylvester (Sly) the cat and Esio Trot the tortoise.
Sly was a rescue cat that we re-homed from the local cat and dog home and as such we don't know much about his life before he came to be with us. However, he is exceptionally affectionate and playful and is probably the most social cat I have ever known! Whenever we have people over he'll always come through and make his presence known. Sly is also a hunter and spends a good chunk of the day out and about patrolling his territory.
Esio Trot, the Herman's Tortoise, came into our life a couple of years ago after a friend of a friend had a new baby on the way. He was 5 years old when he came to be with us. Esio enjoys rearranging all his enclosure and having a dip in his pool. At first we weren't sure how Esio and Sly would get on - Sly will try to play with Esio and doesn't seem to understand why he wouldn't want to!
They certainly sound like the pair. Tell us during the pregnancy, was there any changes in Sylvester's behaviour?
Around the same time we found out that I was pregnant, we noticed that Sylvester seemed a bit off. He was marking inside the house, he stopped going out as much and he was generally being quite clingy.
As a result of Sylvester being unwell, 3 local cats started moving into his territory, marking around the outside of the house and fighting amongst themselves in the middle of the night. This did not help the situation at all and made him more anxious.
After taking him to the vet we were informed that he was suffering from a stress induced urine infection as a result of the pregnancy. The vet advised that Sylvester will sense a change in me but would not know what the change is. As such the best way to approach this was to make him as comfortable as possible. We tried a variety of things to reassure him including a pheromone plug-in, limiting the rooms he had access to and playing with him more frequently. Over time he became more comfortable and at ease with the situation.
Was there a second shift in Sylvester when bringing Nathaniel home?
We weren't sure how Sylvester would be with Nathaniel but we knew we had to let him be in the room with the baby to reassure him that nothing further would change. At first, he kept his distance and seemed very uninterested in Nathaniel. However, over the next couple of days he become more curious and would come over and smell him. He seemed to know that his new addition was precious as he never tried to paw or poke at him and is very gentle.
Now Sylvester is very at ease with Nathaniel and will join us on the couch from time to time. As Nathaniel is still very small we'll need to wait and see how the two get on when Nathaniel's reaching those developmental milestones but our hope is that because Sylvester has been around Nathaniel from the very beginning, it should make the process easier.
Bearing this journey in mind do you think infants and pets are compatible and if so what are the benefits for all involved?
Definitely. I would say that it must be very difficult for a pet when there is a big change on the horizon. They are unable to make sense of the situation or to communicate effectively - like a newborn baby!
The whole situation can make them anxious and ill at ease, as it did with Sylvester. I love to watch the way Sylvester interacts with Nathaniel as he is very gentle with him. I'm hopeful that they will be the best of buddies as Nathaniel grows up as we also had cats growing up and I have very fond memories of them!
It is not uncommon for animals to end up in shelters when a baby arrives in their home - do you have any advice for families?
One of the most important things that we did for Sylvester in preparing for the new baby was to gradually introduce some changes over the course of the pregnancy rather than have all the changes come at once. Your pet will need regular reassurance that everything is OK!