Dear Aunt Juniper,
I have a dilemma.
Before my little girl arrived we lived happily with 2 cats, who were my children! I went into labour and the cats missed their flea treatments as we were so busy. They brought fleas into the house and I went crazy. They were treated, etc., but have been living outside, in a top of the range cat kennel which they love, ever since.
Now my daughter is bigger, I’m less emotional and as winter sets in, I want to bring the cats back in. However I’m so anxious about the cat hair and germs they will be planting everywhere.
Without cleaning every single day, which I honestly don’t have time for, what are your top tips for enabling me, the cats and the kid to cohabit?
Thank you in advance,
Potential Cat Cohabitor.
Dear Potential Cat Cohabitor,
I was quite anxious about how my beloved pets would react to my baby when she arrived. I have often given out advice in my consult room about how to mix the two and was looking forward to trying out some of my own tips. I now appreciate how stressful it is having a newborn and how guilty you feel about the lack of time you end up spending with your other loved ones. I can certainly understand the panic when you found fleas in your house on top of all the other things you had to deal with at this emotional time. It sounds like your cats have top notch alternative living arrangements outside. Will you still allow them access to their outdoor kennel once they move back in the house? You may find they prefer to still spend quite a bit of time outdoors.
With regard to the fleas, germs and hair, there are several things I would suggest. Flea and worm control are going to be the most important health issues with respect to your little girl. I would recommend taking your cats to the vets for a health and weight check so that they get the appropriate preventative flea and worm products. I’m guessing you treated your house for fleas when you first had the problem? If not, then you may want to get a good house flea spray to treat the house before the cats move back in. We would normally recommend monthly flea treatments and 3 monthly worm treatments for cats. If your cats are prolific hunters and like to bring ‘gifts’ back for you on a regular basis, then I would increase the worm treatments to monthly. The other major concern with cats is the litter tray. If your daughter is anything like mine, she will no doubt go to great lengths to get into the tray. I have resorted to a covered litter tray which my cats took to quite quickly and actually seem to prefer.I initially kept the uncovered litter tray in place for a week and then took it away with no problem.
Cat hair is a problem, although Labrador hair is much worse! I try to brush my 3 cats once or twice a week which does help. There is a great brush called a ‘furminator’ which removes lots of hair. Unfortunately, 2 of my cats are not big fans of the furminator brush so I use the ‘zoom groom’ which is much gentler. On a slightly over the top note, I was given the most amazing Christmas present last year…..the roomba. If you haven’t heard of these hoovers then check them out. You press go and they set off on the hunt for cat hair while you sit having a cuppa!
I would also suggest keeping your daughters bedroom door closed otherwise the cats will be in there snuggling down in her cot. Its amazing how quickly they sneak in given the opportunity!
Finally here are a few tips which I feel helped my cats deal with my daughter’s arrival. Cats tend to accept new items/people who smell familiar. They will often rub their faces on new items so that they then smell of them. I allowed my cats into my daughter’s room before she arrived so that they could investigate all the new furniture and hopefully not be so curious about her room. It may be an idea to take one of your daughters possessions, such as a babygro, into the cat kennel for a few days before they are allowed back in the house so that your daughter’s smell becomes more familiar. I also made sure that they had places to go to where they could feel safe, This included allowing them access to the spare room if they wanted to get away from all of us for a bit. I also cleared a wide shelf in our sitting room so that if they wanted to be with us, but out of reach, then they could happily sit up there. Have you heard of ‘feliway’ diffusers? These are plug in pheromone diffusers which help to reduce anxiety in cats in potentially stressful situations.
Ultimately, I think it is great for children to grow up with pets. My little lady is at an age where she is very interested in what our cats are doing and wants to touch them. I have found baby gates are a great way of allowing my cats an easy escape if its all getting too much. They do allow her to crawl after them and now almost trust her not to just grab at them and try to pull out fistfuls of fur! If she does push it with them then they dive through the baby gate to safety!
Good luck with moving your cats back in!
Lots of Love,
Aunt Juniper* xx
*On this occasion, Aunt Juniper was Nicki Bell, a vet from the Goddards Vet Surgery in Thamesmead.
Nicki is a newish mum to her gorgeous 10 month old little girl. She has been a vet for 12 years and has worked with both farm and companion animals. She has 3 lovely cats and a beautiful black Labrador, all of whom have coped remarkably well with the new addition to her family.
FROM THE MUMMY’S GIN FUND FACEBOOK COLLECTIVE:
‘My daughter has always lived in with our 3 cats. With no adverse effects!’
’What did you do before she arrived? Can you keep them off beds and out of certain rooms?’
‘We have three cats and two kids. They coexist!’
‘We have a 10-month-old and a cat. Aside from standard cleaning and supervision (we don’t sleep with bedroom doors open any more) we don’t do anything else. I was nervous at first too, but no longer am. Some studies have shown that babies that grow up with animals have stronger immune systems.’
‘Our cat only seems to shed through the summer, when I become a madwoman cleaning and wiping! But other than that the only room she’s barred from is baby’s room. Maybe a few throws around will help with the hair?’
‘We shut ours in the kitchen dining room but she’s not a real cat & can’t jump on the kitchen surfaces! We swapped to a rubbish flea treatment just before our newborns arrival & my husband ended up de-fleaing the house during his paternity leave!!!’
‘At night we shut ours (massive long-haired) in the back of the house (sitting room and kitchen) or outside if they prefer. Other than that, throws on the sitting room furniture, which we sticky roller most days. Yes, there’s cat fur around but both our girls (6 and nearly 1) seem to have fewer than average ailments and no allergies so we don’t worry about it. They also walk all over the surfaces in the kitchen but we wipe as much as we have time for and turn a blind eye to the rest.’
‘Just keep on top of the flea treatments and all will be well. Both my children have lived with a cat since babies with normal vacuuming and are fine. In fact the children create far more mess and germs than my cat.’
‘If only children just created the work the cat does! Cat has always been here, no problem. Supposed to be positive for their immune system and less allergies.’
‘My twins were very preemie and I has my cat before they were born. The only room that we shut the door on was their bedroom, and only when they were sleeping in their and we were somewhere else. She now regularly loves curling up on the end if their beds (they are now nearly 3). We have had no problems with the cat and the kids xxx’
’There are studies that show children are healthier with pets – it both helps their resistance to bugs and helps their happiness/mental health (as well as helping their sense of empathy I think?!). Throw a couple of cushions/folded blankets around for the cats to sleep on if you want less cat hair. And yeah cat germs won’t hurt your kids, it’s other kids that are likely to pass on germs.’
‘We have a cat and we just make sure we keep on top of his treatments. We can’t hoover all the time, but I make sure I do it when I can. I also have to put a blanket on the sofa for the cat to sleep on; baby doesn’t bother at all with it. We do need to change the bed covers more than if we never had a cat as they are white and the cat sometimes gets dirty paw prints on it – but I can live with that x’
‘It’s definitely worth it when you see them playing together, my little boy is starting to really interact with the cat. He sometimes puts his head on the cat like he does with his teddies, for a wee snuggle – sometimes the cat lets him, sometimes he doesn’t.’
‘I’m not a vet but have always had cats with all my babies. One of my cats helped my 6 year old to crawl when she was 8 months lol. He used to put his head under her bum to help her stay up lol. It worked as she was crawling after 4 days xx’
‘We used Sssscat to keep our naughty kitten off kitchen work tops.’
‘We got a cat and her two kittens when our eldest was six-months and have had three more kids since then. We have always locked the cats in the kitchen at night and don’t really worry about sides – unless they look dirty. I’m sure it has done their immune systems the world of good and they love playing with and cuddling them.’
‘We have two cats and a five-month-old. We decided it was time for a cleaner but also have quite a few wooden floor areas so a little easier. They say children that grow up around cats or other pets actually have a better immunity! We have bed-spreads on our beds and we close the nursery door so they can’t get in.’
‘We have two cats and I have a five-year-old and eight-month-old and I haven’t changed any cleaning routine since having kids, I just try and keep flea treatment up as much as I can! X’
‘A study has found that babies brought up with pets are unwell less frequently. Embrace a bit of dirt.’
‘We’ve got two cats. One appointed herself my sons permanent guardian when he was tiny! Lots of research shows kids raised with pets are less likely to develop allergies and asthma – let the lovelies back in! Of course, they won’t talk to you for a few months and will probably poo on the sofa to teach you a lesson!’
‘I’ve got 4(!) cats and a dog and had preemie twins. We made sure they were never alone with animals in the early days and hoovered a lot. Now, 2.5 years later, 2 of the cats give them a wide birth, while the other 2 adore them. And the dog couldn’t give two hoots! I believe it’s good for kids to grow up with animals and help to keep their immune system strong!’
‘As long as you have a decent vacuum you’ll be fine! We’ve had to keep ours out of the bedroom while we’re all asleep in there but I still let them sleep on our bed in the day. Never on the cot though, I cover that during the day. It’s been like this since we brought LG home 7 weeks ago and it’s all fine.’
’All our hoovers have been for pet hair so hopefully all will be well x’
‘Cats are very clean animals, and as long as you keep on top of their flea treatments, I don’t see why there should be a problem. I have two indoor ones (long haired!), and yes their fur gets EVERYWHERE but as long as you have a good vacuum and a steady supply of lint rollers you’ll be fine. Also grooming is key and helps prevent furballs. There’s a brush you can buy online called a Furminator and I highly recommend it! Good luck!’
‘Dirt is honestly good for us and modern life is too too clean. So says my neighbour who is a super brilliant transplant surgeon!’
‘I have an eight-month-old and a 12 stone dog who makes a huge amount of mess! I honestly could clean the whole house everyday but I have to let some things slide. That said I do Hoover downstairs pretty much everyday; just a quick wiz round to get the worst of the hair up. Then he goes in the garden and treads huge dinosaur muddy footprints.’
‘Our cat doesn’t make much mess that I’ve noticed. Certainly not when compared with the children. Also, kids who grow up with cats and dogs have better immune systems apparently.’
‘My cat is long haired so doesn’t shed loads but he was my baby before my little boy came along. He still is, except he doesn’t sleep on the beds anymore, my son has a great relationship with him too x.’
‘Our cats make less mess than my daughter. We brush them regularly to collect the fur that’d otherwise need to be hoovered up. They really like it, too. They are part of the family.’
‘Goodness I think I’m a bit blasé about our 2 cats and 3 kids – though I can see why fleas would freak you out. 8-month-old twins love having the cats around, their eyes light up when they come into the room but I keep their bedroom door shut so the cats don’t go near the cots. With our 4 yr old – well sometimes, when he won’t stay in bed at bedtime, I bring the soppiest cat up to snuggle with him on his bed and it works a treat as dearest son won’t move a muscle then as he doesn’t want to disturb the cat. I didn’t pick that tip up from Super Nanny but it works for us! I guess what I’m trying to say is like everyone else, our kids and cats mix absolutely fine. Germs are everywhere, worse at playgroups and soft play I would guess if truth be told. Good luck moving them back and hope you all get on well.’
‘We keep on top of our cat’s worm treatments too. We do panacur paste every 3 months & droncit spot-ons every month to cover all wormy bases (cheapest from www.animeddirect.co.uk).’
‘We’ve also got a cat, had it before I got pregnant and many people were telling me to get rid of her as it’s not good to have cats in the house. I stuck to my opinion and here we are now with the cat and our 6mo girl living in a small flat.’
‘We have a Jack Russell and a seven-month-old baby. The dog does bring dirt in and sheds loads but baby is healthy and growing up well.’
‘We have two cats and an 8 month old baby who is allergic to dairy, soy, eggs and wheat BUT not cats!! I’d say get them inside.’
‘I’ve got 3 cats and a 13 month old. Never let them in her room, not really allowed in the front room and I have some cheap covers I bought from eBay that go over the dining room chairs so quite happy for them to sit on there. They soon know where they are allowed and where they are not. I have a Dyson pet hair thingeemajig and try and keep on top of the flea treatments and stuff as already said. Felt the same as you initially but feel a lot more relaxed now, especially as I can see how much the little one loves them. Believe it or not, I am allergic to cats but built up an immunity being around them all the time.’
‘I don’t worry about cat germs at all. My ten month old strokes them, they sit on the rug together. They’ll pick up a lot worse from nursery! Just let your cats in.’
‘Go with ur gut. If children are at risk I say keep animals outside. TV media say a lot of things are good for u etc but it’s tests, trial, error until later find out its gonna kill us! Up to u go with what makes u comfortable at end of day it’s ur family! Many of us in UK put animals before their kids it’s crazy how we live sometimes lol but I wouldn’t take risks with my kids health with any family pet. Just thought I would send a diff side instead of agreeing with everyone else.’
‘Also everyone’s case is different and everyone’s children are different. I had cats that had fleas and they didn’t leave for over 6months! Kept coming back after treatment after treatment so, end of the day ,I re-homed cat. Kept seeing fleas in the bed, sofa, wooden floors – couldn’t get rid!!!!’
‘I too had a flea problem when my daughter was quite small. It’s one of those things with pets and I think the benefits outweigh the cons. My tips are to take the pets to the vet for a flea treatment – it’s far superior to anything you can buy yourself and in our case really solved it. The next thing i did was to get an exterminator in to fumigate the house so i was sure the problem wouldn’t come back. Been flea free for well over a year now and my daughter loves our cat.’
‘If your cat is large and you know its weight, you don’t have to go to the vet as Celia Hammond will give out strong treatments to use. My cat is over 4kg so ordinary treatments won’t work and he gets a special one for big cats x’
‘I wouldn’t worry too much about the hair, etc., it’s more of an issue for us mums than the little ones. As long as the cats are ok with being dragged about, tails pulled, etc., you will be fine. I’ve had our cat since before my little girl was born, they are besties .’
‘Flea treatment: I think the only thing that works for us is Advantage. Never have fleas and I only use it bi-monthly.’
‘I am a vet. Use frontline or advantage every 3-4 weeks. You can get either from a chemist or online without a prescription. Make sure you get the correct one for their weight. Also, worm monthly with Drontal and it will be fine to be in the house with you and the children.’
Note: These are suggestions from members of Mummy’s Gin Fund based on experience and should not be treated as official advice. Any action taken is at your own risk. Always seek professional advice if you have any questions or concerns about any aspect of your life.
Always consult NHS 111, your GP, health visitor or A&E for professional medical advice.