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Old 01-07-2013, 01:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Cat is being a jerk

I have an 8 year old short hair cat named Jeeves. He was our first "baby" and an only cat.

We have a 9 month old, who is now very mobile. When the baby first arrived, Jeeves would eat his things (teethers, bottles, pacifiers, etc.) - until we learned that he was going specifically for things made of silicone and now all that stuff is out of his reach.

The cat LIKES to be near the baby. If the baby is on the floor playing, the cat will be a few feet away, just barely out of his reach (but he can easily crawl to him). My son is not the most gentle, but up until last week, I thought the cat was very tolerant......and then he scratched my son's face. In my opinion, it was pretty bad. Three claws got him - about 2-3" across his cheek. My husband says if he happens again, the cat goes. Of course I want my son safe, but I can't handle losing the cat.

The cat has been jumping on shoulders more than usual as well. Do any of you have experience with soft paws? Declawing is not an option.

What should I do?
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:23 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Firstly, I'm very glad to hear that declawing is not something you'd consider.

Ok, how to deal with cat and baby. What happened before the cat scratched your baby? Did the baby poke his eye, tug his tail or fur? Whap him on the head? All of the above reasons are valid reasons for the cat to tell your baby off. I don't like being hit on the head by a baby, but as an adult human I'm aware that the baby didn't do it to be mean...your cat is not aware of that and so he reacted as he would if anyone else hit him on the head (or whatever baby thing your kid did to cause a reaction like you described), defensively.

Cats can also react this way to loud noises, surprise (such as the baby rapidly moving towards him), and other startling things that happen nearby that have nothing to do with the baby.

I want to be clear that I'm not saying it's OK that your cat did this, but that is is something most cats would do. That doesn't mean that there's nothing you can do, but rather that you need to be aware of why this happened in order to prevent it.

You need to know what sort of actions can trigger this reaction from your cat so that you can prevent them, and now that you have a mobile little one it's crucial that you are always there to redirect your baby for the safety of both of them.

Things you can do to prevent future scratches, supervise very closely and don't encourage your kid to interact with the cat. At all. IMO children shouldn't have anything to do with pets until they are old enough to fully understand how to be gentle. Period. it is not safe for your pet or your child if the kid is allowed to hit the cat as hard as he likes, even if a baby doesn't understand he is hurting the cat.

For me, this means that the only way you allow your child to interact with the cat is from afar. For example, sitting on the floor watching kitty play with a toy across the room. Or looking at the kitties fur from far away, ect. Yes, cats and babies are cute together, but babies and cats aren't known for their self control. Since your hubby has already given your cat an ultimatum I'd err on the side of caution.

When they have to be in the same room together you could encourage the cat to think of the baby as a good thing by tossing him treats to keep him at a distance. Eventually he'll learn that staying a good distance away result in goodies, and lots of petting from yourself of course.

Make sure your cat has a lot of places to go where the baby can't reach. On couches, tables, counters, windowsills, cat posts ect. Until your baby is old enough to learn some real self control the cat need to know he can escape if he needs to, and you need to encourage him to do so. I'm not saying act aggressively and chase your cat away from the baby, but I would gently discourage them from being within reach of each other for now.

The other thing you can do is make sure your cat isn't feeling left out. Babies take up a lot of time, energy, and attention...all of which your cat had more of before this small loud smelly being came into his house. Take some time out each day to play with the cat, pet him, and spend time with him. That will reduce the level of energy he has, which will hopefully mean he'll spend more time sleeping and less time following your mobile baby, and that he'll be generally happier and less stressed so if they do happen to interact he'll respond more positively.

Learn to watch the cat's body language for signs of stress; lashing his tail around, crouching, staring, putting his ear back, licking his lips, ect. if he's near the baby and showing any of these signs he's stressed and that means he's more likely to lash out.

Just because he wants to be near the baby doesn't mean he LIKES the baby. Babies have all sorts of strange smells on them, they usually have food nearby, and they make noises. All of those are reasons your cat could be nearby that would not always lead to good things between the two of them. He could very well be 'keeping his enemies closer' so to speak. Cats tend to follow around people or animals they are uncomfortable with, they don't want to leave them unsupervised in their territory but they don't want to get too close either.

the last thing I'd suggest is looking into trimming the cats nails more often. This way the cat still has it's claws, but is much less likely to hurt the baby. If you have a particularly calm cat who will let you handle him easily you could look into training him to accept a dremel, and use that tool to blunt each nail. Again, this is another way to prevent the cat from hurting the baby while still keeping it's claws.

To me the fact that he's jumping onto shoulders more often suggests that he's uncomfortable with the baby, now that he's mobile, and is looking for a way to escape as well as reassurance.

All of this is stop-gap solutions, because the fact is that your child will need to learn to properly interact with the cat at some point. When the baby is old enough to be gentle, follow instructions (with you RIGHT there), and show some self-control then you can work more on getting them to interact nicely...but for now teaching them both how to avoid each other is where I would start.
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:26 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Brilliant post above. There's only thing I would add is that even bonded kittens sometimes scratch each other. You need to be on the case at the moment but it doesn't necessarily mean a long term problem.
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:37 PM   #4 (permalink)
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clip his nails with a nail clipper. just don't cut into the quick. i've never used soft paws, they seem like they would be a lot of trouble since you glue them on and they come off, etc.

if he won't let you, wrap him in a towel like a burrito, and have your husband hold him while you clip. the colored part of the nail is the quick.

and also follow all the behavioral advice.
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:43 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cinderflower View Post
clip his nails with a nail clipper. just don't cut into the quick. i've never used soft paws, they seem like they would be a lot of trouble since you glue them on and they come off, etc.

if he won't let you, wrap him in a towel like a burrito, and have your husband hold him while you clip. the colored part of the nail is the quick.

and also follow all the behavioral advice.
I bought a quick finder nail clippers for $35 at PetSmart . Haven't tried them yet though. May be a good solution, but even clipped nails can scratch. You might encourage the cat to keep a distance from the baby by spraying it with water (???) if he gets too close. PLEASE don't flame spray me anyone, I'm not a baby person, nor am I a kitten person, just trying to see what will stick for a solution.
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:47 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm very familiar with the quick finder clippers...TBH you should just return them. They only work on large dogs, and even then it's really iffy. I don't actually think I ever saw someone buy a pair of those and not return them in the three years I worked at petsmart. Sorry Marcia :/

the best 'quick saver' solution I've found is to either be very careful, get someone who's really comfortable clipping nails to do it, or to use a dremel or a pair of clippers with the nail stopper flat metal bit (which is NOT a preventative by itself!).

As for the sprayer...I understand you mean well...but that is a really bad plan. You absolutely don't want the cat to associate the baby with bad things. That's how you create serious problems and a cat who hates children. To keep them apart the best solution is to calmly redirect the baby to crawl/walk in another direction, and gently encourage the cat to move away using calm tones and hand gestures. Or throwing treats across the room.
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Last edited by librarychick; 01-07-2013 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 01-07-2013, 05:58 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Marcia View Post
PLEASE don't flame spray me anyone, I'm not a baby person, nor am I a kitten person, just trying to see what will stick for a solution.
LOL. yeah i know, it would be better if the cat just didn't scratch the baby but i've been clipping so long that if i can get someone else to hold the cat, i can do it less than 2 minutes. it's probably tricky if someone hasn't done it but it doesn't require a college degree either.

personally, i think i'd keep them apart as much as possible in all the ways librarychick said. i got clawed in the eye by my cat when i was three BECAUSE I SAT ON IT. good part: i didn't lose my eye. second good part: i never played sit on the cat again.
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Old 01-07-2013, 08:12 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I agree with Becky's advice. Your cat isn't being a jerk...he doesn't understand that a baby can't defend itself. And, of course, your baby doesn't know any better either. Babies (and toddlers) should not be left unsupervised with a cat or any other animal. When you can't supervise them -- because you're busy cooking supper, etc. -- then the baby and the cat need to be separated. Either the baby goes in the nursery or the cat goes in another room, until such time as you can supervise both.

And, BTW, congratulations on your new baby!
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:48 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by librarychick View Post
Just because he wants to be near the baby doesn't mean he LIKES the baby. Babies have all sorts of strange smells on them, they usually have food nearby, and they make noises. All of those are reasons your cat could be nearby that would not always lead to good things between the two of them. He could very well be 'keeping his enemies closer' so to speak. Cats tend to follow around people or animals they are uncomfortable with, they don't want to leave them unsupervised in their territory but they don't want to get too close either.
This is brilliant. Thank you for all of your incite, but especially this. The cat never seems happy to be around the baby. I will definitely take your advice and keep Jeeves farther from the baby and the baby farther from Jeeves. I had really been pushing to practice being gentle (and baby is responding for the most part....but he's too little to fully understand...and even when he's petting the cat gently...the cat is not comfortable, just tolerant).

I definitely take full responsibility for the scratch that occurred, as I was playing with the cat next to me on the couch and baby leaned in and landed with both hands on the cats side.

Clipping nails more often is a great idea. I have misplaced my kitty nail clipper and haven't gone out to buy a new one yet, so that should be first on my list.

THANK YOU ALL!! YOU ARE WONDERFUL!!
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Old 01-08-2013, 11:54 AM   #10 (permalink)
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This is great to hear!

I think you should also have a discussion with your SO about why the cat did what he did. One scratch is a problem, yes...but it's not a reason to threaten getting rid of the cat. The honest truth is that even if you're the most careful person ever this WILL happen again. It might not be right away, but just by having a kid and a cat you need to be aware that at some point the cat will scratch your child again. It's fairly likely the child will deserve it (by hurting or scaring the cat either semi-purposefully or by accident).

Your SO needs to be aware of this, and also needs to be willing to help you manage their interactions. You can't always have this 'what if' hanging over your head, it's not fair for you or your kitty.

Keep us posted, ok? And we'd love to see pictures of Jeeves. I love the name BTW, the Jeeves and Wooster books are great
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