Knocking a Princess off her perch

I already have a little girl. She is the centre of my world, and we are the centre of hers. She’s now six years old and she is most definitely our little princess. The trouble is she’s about to get ousted from her privileged position by a new baby, and I don’t know how she’ll cope with the newcomer. Will she love it? Play with it? Be jealous of it? Harm it? How do we prepare her for its entrance to make sure her reaction is on the love it and respect it end of the spectrum?

She’s also pretty hairy.

Let me introduce our cat, Carrie:
When we got her from Battersea five years ago, we promised ourselves going in that we would not get a long haired or white cat. But there she was, the most beautiful cat in the world (at the time looking significantly less like the furball she is today!) and I loved her from the minute I set eyes on her – she was the one. The bond was instant.

She is spoilt rotten, constantly by our sides when we are home – joining in with Fred’s conference calls when he’s working from home (she assumes he’s speaking to her so responds with a conversational miaow!), and sleeping at the beginning, middle and end of the bed taking up more space than the average human. Her travel sickness has meant we have resorted to having her loose in the car, with her own personal travel rug and strapped in using her harness – no cat box for her!

And our spoiling doesn’t compare with that she gets from Granny! When Granny cat sits it takes weeks to get her expectations back to a more manageable state. Granny feeds her three times a day (“she looked at me pitifully!”), and wakes up early in the morning specially so she gets her food on time, and takes her to the pet parlour to be groomed (the fact that said pet parlour is for dogs does not deter Granny – who nonetheless marches in there, cat in tow demanding a good grooming).

Our baby.

But soon there will be a real baby and things will change. My friend Alex had two cat babies before her son was born and she loved them dearly. But that changed with Evan’s arrival. Suddenly the over-amorous pursuit of one brother by the other was not so amusing when you were trying to keep a baby asleep. And their pleas for attention not so welcome when trying to breastfeed. Luckily they showed no animosity towards the intruder, but there were definitely times when Alex threatened the rescue centre and wasn’t entirely joking.

So I know I need to do some preparation for this in advance:

Step 1: Ban access to the nursery. Having had free reign of the spare room since our last lodger moved out, the door will be closed on her once again. Hopefully the fact that it’s a room she’s been banned from in the past will make it easier to ban again. Apparently spraying the door with Feliway might help reduce her stress levels at having her territory reduced by a quarter, so I’ll give that a go.

Step 2: Curtail activity that will not be permitted post-baby. So come June, the bed will be a no cat zone or if I’m weak-willed then at least the top of the bed will be designated off limits.

Step 3: Let her scent mark all the baby stuff before the baby gets here. Try to be a bit less last minute so there aren’t a lot of weird smelling things in the house to freak her out.

Step 4: Prepare cat for baby. Once its born, Fred will need to do some smell transfer, bringing clothes from the baby back to the cat so she has a chance to get used to it.

Step 5: Cold turkey. According to the Feline Advisory Bureau (is there a better named organisation?), we need to dial down the affection in advance of the baby’s arrival to a level which is more sustainable after it appears. So just in that period when I’m fit to burst and want some catty company, I will have to avoid it. Sob.

There are other steps we could take, like carrying a doll around, wearing baby lotion and powder, plugging in Feliway all around the house or playing baby noises to the cat. But I’m not sure we have the patience to do all of that (and our friends might get us taken away by the men in white coats).

In any case, I hope they become lifelong friends – I’ll just be a teensy bit sad when Carrie chooses to sleep on the kid’s bed rather than ours…

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