Cat in the Crib

So I’m a little nervous about how the cat’s going to do with a baby around the house. Up till now, our cat Nemo has had the run of this place. There’s a hole clawed in the screen of every window (and the door!) that accesses the backyard. During the warm months, he comes and goes as he pleases, while in winter we act as doormen, letting him in and out throughout the day and even once or twice every night. Sometimes orgies of petting take place (he especially loves having the underside of his chin rubbed), but he’s not a lap cat, and while he likes hanging around and watching people, he keeps to his own chair. He’s a real personality –neurotic, food obsessed, and at times needy. In other words, the handsome little devil fits in perfectly with us.

For the first few days Nemo ignored the baby stuff we bought, but now he’s discovered the crib and seems to think it’s for him. I can understand: it looks comfy cozy in there, and what cat doesn’t like curling up in a small space? But the crib’s probably the only piece of furniture in the house that’s completely off limits. It seemed that wasn’t going to be a problem, and then on Friday I found him spread out on the baby’s mattress, lying on his back and wanting his tummy rubbed. I made a big fuss with lots of clapping and sharp no-no-ing and put him on time-out in the downstairs bathroom.

That’s right; our cat has a time-out space. It’s part of our discipline plan (along with the claps and the no-ing). The problem is, the plan doesn’t work so well because Nemo’s oblivious to pain or discomfort. His mom was a street cat and he has a little bit of an edge to him. Before we adopted him as a kitten he fell through a banister and down a flight of stairs, not once but twice. His nose is perpetually bruised or scuffed or cut from tangling with one of our neighbor cats. For five years now, he’s been jumping up on our kitchen counters even though he knows we’ll shoot him in the face with water. He’ll actually buckle down and take a few direct hits if he’s got his mouth on a good morsel. I kind of respect his will power, but it’s frustrating too.

Rather than stop his behavior, we mostly adjust to it by doing things like covering food so that he can’t eat it when he hops up on the counter, or else putting him on time out. We thought of covering the crib with a sheet so that he won’t want to jump in it, but I don’t like that idea because it’s temporary. Come June I want to be focused on the baby. I don’t want to have to worry that the cat’s going to slip in through the bedroom window when I’m not aware and jump into the crib while the baby’s napping.

There’s also the question of how he’ll get along with our son. He’s never spent much time around children, and a few weeks ago, when we had visitors with kids, he tried to nip a little girl who wanted to pet him. Fortunately the girl could tell he wasn’t happy and had backed away, so he didn’t really make contact with her, and then S swooped in before anything serious happened. But we were embarrassed and concerned.

Hopefully, he’ll adjust well to the new addition to the family, and I’m sure we’ll learn techniques to deal with him so that he won’t harm the baby or drive us nuts. But a part of me worries that if he can’t control impulses like jumping in the crib, and if he doesn’t lower his aggression, then we’re going to have to make a tough decision. (We always thought he would make a great farm cat.) Or maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion. This is probably my protective instinct rearing up, trying to make sure that the house is safe for baby. Of course, I could end up loving Nemo more than the baby, and wanting to find the baby a new home. I’m sure for all his idiosyncrasies, Nemo’s probably a lot easier to care for! Kidding, kidding.

Nemo, doing his best baby imitation

Nemo, doing his best baby imitation

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