In my blog post introducing our cat Grendel, written before Lillian was born, I expressed some concerns about how to ensure a safe coexistence for our longtime pet and our impending new arrival. It seemed to be accepted wisdom that letting a cat into a baby’s crib — or leaving unattended pets around babies in general — just isn’t such a great idea, so we wanted to come up with some easy way to keep Grendel out of the nursery for when we were asleep or otherwise unable to keep a close eye on her. Here are the general ideas we considered:
- Just keep the nursery door closed. We didn’t care for this one very much, and didn’t really take it too seriously as a solution — we just didn’t like the idea of having an opaque, sound-muffling barrier between us and the baby. Plus it seemed like it would be bad for the air circulation in the room, which we’ve heard has been associated (however loosely) with SIDS.
- Replace the nursery door with some sort of screen door. This one was probably my first choice, but it turned out to be really difficult to find an interior-style screen door (as opposed to a storm door that goes on the outside of your house). The closest thing we were able to find — unless we wanted to build one ourselves — was a louvered door, the likes of which do exist in non-bifold form at Home Depot (though they appear to be a special-order rarity).
- Rig up some kind of screen or gate in the doorway. Similar to the last option, but instead of replacing the existing door, it would involve installing something in addition to it. There seemed to be more options available for this approach, such as retractable screen doors that can be installed in standard interior doorways.
What we eventually decided to try was a child safety gate. Since we assumed Grendel (or any cat) would easily be able to hop over the 36″ barrier, we figured we would have to put something else above it. Like maybe a second child safety gate.
But then we noticed something interesting: it seemed like Grendel wouldn’t — or couldn’t — get over this gate. At first we thought this was just due to lack of interest on her part, so we devised the following ingenious super-scientific experiment to test whether or not she could actually get into the room:
You know those chewy treats that cats love? We put a little pile of those on the floor just beyond the gate, only slightly out of paw’s reach, to test what Grendel would do. It was obvious that she could see and/or smell the treats, and she made some pretty impressive efforts to get at them. She tried reaching through with an outstretched paw, she tried wrapping her paws around the bars and pulling the gate open. She even tried turning her head sideways and squeezing in between the bars, though there wasn’t nearly enough room, and we worried a few times that she’d get her silly self stuck.
We kept this experiment going for a few consecutive nights, but the treats were never touched. And we figured that if our plant-eating glutton of a cat wouldn’t jump over that gate for treats, she probably wouldn’t jump over it for any reason.
(Don’t worry though, we lavished Grendel with no-strings-attached treats just to be nice afterwards — tantalizing her with unreachable meaty morsels like that made us feel kind of like jerks.)
The footnote to this story is that after all these efforts we put in before Lillian was born, Grendel seemed pretty bewildered by the tiny wiggling thing we brought home from the hospital, to the point where she did a pretty good job keeping away from the baby all on her own. I had to bribe her with food just to get her to stay near Lillian long enough to snap this photo:
Anyway, our theory on the whole gate thing is that cats like to have something solid to jump onto, and generally don’t like jumping straight up and over a barrier so narrow. (Because if they miscalculate even a little, they’ll up the laughingstock of the internet like this poor cat on YouTube.)
For any cat-owners who may be reading, would a child gate like this keep your cat(s) at bay? I feel like it probably depends a lot on each cat’s individual personality and athletic ability, but I’d be especially curious to hear from anyone who’s tried something similar, and whether it was successful or not.