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Cat Aggressive Towards Children?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
We had a bad experience with one of our cats this weekend. Marlon is a neutered male, around 3 years old. He's always been a little off, but he's generally very sweet with my fiance and me. We've known for a while that he can be territorial with certain people, but that's only a problem if people directly approach him. Usually, if guests ignore him, he ranges from affectionate to standoffish.

This weekend, though, my cousin, her husband, and their 2.5 month baby were visiting. Shortly after they arrived, I was out helping my cousin park, and my fiance had excused himself to the bathroom. My cousin's husband, who has grown up with cats and knows how to behave with them, was holding his son.

Apparently, the baby started crying, at which point Marlon basically attacked my cousin's husband while he was holding the baby! The cat stalked him around the room until he got close enough to take a big swipe at his legs. Fortunately he had soft paws on most of his front claws, but he still managed to rip a big hole in his pants.

We are terrified of what might have happened if the baby had been on the floor when this happened. What's more, we're planning on having kids in two or three years. Hopefully Marlon has mellowed by then, but what do we do if he hasn't? I'm a big believer in teaching children to respect animals, but you can't very well teach an infant not to cry! Any advice? Anyone else dealt with this problem?
post #2 of 7
I've seen two theories for this. In female cats, the idea is that it is the mothering instinct kicking in, and it is their nature to make their babies be quiet (for their safety, from prey), so they pick them up - which in a human baby would look like the cat biting the neck.

The other theory is that sometimes (depending upon the pitches) a crying baby can sound like injured prey.

I don't know whether these are correct in any way or not - but please do know that most people have no problems with their cats and their babies.

But because he reacted like this, I'd work on desensitizing him to the sound of a baby crying. Go to YouTube, and find videos of crying babies and play them for him.

When he gets to a point he doesn't react to it, praise him to high heaven and give him treats. Cats learn best through positive reinforcement - so just let him do whatever he needs to until he gets to the point he stops reacting, then go for the praise - and he'll learn that you don't want him to react to a baby crying.
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
The YouTube idea is a great one. We'll just have to see if he actually reacts to it. Hopefully he does, because that will give us a way to work with him. Thanks so much!
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Wow, we just tried playing some crying baby clips, and Marlon is totally freaked out. It's very strange, because in the past when we've had clips of cats playing he totally ignores them, while our other cat, Audrey, reacts strongly.

So apparently Marlon is immune to hissing, growling cats, but terrified/infuriated by crying babies. Audrey wasn't too pleased either, but her reaction was to leave the room, which is fine with us. Marlon, on the other hand, frantically searched the room, trying to locate the source of the noise, growling the entire time. I've never seen him like this.

We will definitely be working on this when we can really focus on him and reward appropriate behavior. Thanks again.
post #5 of 7
That's really interesting! I'm glad Audrey isn't a problem too. Sounds like de-sensitizing Marlon to the baby crying is a good idea.

Does talking to him calmly while he's freaking help at all?

I'm wondering what else might help.... Feliway often helps calm cats. I don't know if it's worth buying Feliway spray, and spraying it in the room where you play the videos... and see if that helps him calm down in response? It's supposed to help cats de-stress, and it helps in our multi-cat household - but that's cats interacting with cats, though generally it (often) helps with "stress" triggers.

When you are going to have a baby, DEFINITELY let him smell and explore all the furniture, talk to him a lot to let him know there's going to be a new member of the family, and I would really recommend that before you come home from the hospital with the baby that hubby bring something home ASAP that has the baby's scent on it (a blanket baby was wrapped up in or something), and put it in one of his favorite beds or something. Maybe put treats down on it and then put it in his bed. Get him associating the baby's scent with "good" things. This helps with all cat introductions - so I'm sure it would help with the baby introduction.
post #6 of 7
Originally Posted by NicoleGray View Post
Wow, we just tried playing some crying baby clips, and Marlon is totally freaked out. It's very strange, because in the past when we've had clips of cats playing he totally ignores them, while our other cat, Audrey, reacts strongly.
For the heck of it - I just played a YouTube video of a baby crying with 3 of my cats around - Eden, Dorian, & Ophelia (deaf). Eden flipped. Dory was interested. Ophelia cannot hear, but reacted upon Eden's behavior by attacking me.

When I turned the sound down *very* low, they were better. I'd perhaps consider playing a video of a baby crying very very quietly - perhaps feed him in the room when you play it?
post #7 of 7
Nat, that's a great idea!
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