Bringing home a new baby is always cause for celebration, but sometimes our pets may be hesitant to meet the new family member and adjust to the changes that come with a new baby. If proper steps are taken, however, having pets and babies can be an easy and stress-free transition.
Months before baby’s due date, start to establish a few boundaries for your pets. Install safety gates to designate some rooms as off-limits. Give your cat a chance to sniff the nursery months before baby’s due date. Put up the crib early enough to let your cat get used to it, but discourage them from climbing into it to take a nap. The longer they have to familiarize themselves with the nursery the more relaxed they will be. Over the next few months, exhibit the behavior that you would want for when your new addition arrives.
Unless you have a scheduled birth, the delivery date can come at a moment’s notice. Have a plan for your pet for the duration of your hospital stay. Whether you are boarding your pet or have sitter or family member coming, have a clear plan. Divide their food into individual servings, jot down important phone numbers and keep the leash in a visible place. This way, if you have to head to the hospital suddenly, your pet’s caregiver can find everything in a flash. Ensure that while at the hospital your pet maintains his schedule. Any kind of change in your pet’s day to day can cause unnecessary stress. Take home one of your baby’s clothes or blankets so your animals can get used to your baby’s smell. When it comes time to bring baby home, your pet will recognize the strange new scent.
During this first meeting, do not bring the baby too close. First impressions are important. Your pet should have pleasant experiences with your baby right from the start. Remember pets are incredibly intuitive and can sense everybody’s emotions. Remain calm — if you are nervous and anxious it is more likely your pet will mirror your emotions. Gradually, pets can be allowed to get closer and closer to the baby. Don’t force the interaction, just let the pet come on his own accord. By doing this, you are allowing your pet to get acclimated to the new sights, sounds and smells he is experiencing.
A new baby needs lots of attention from you and other people. Make a special area for your pet that they can escape to if they are uncomfortable or anxiety is high due to new people and situations. Pets do not always need just materialistic things to make the transition easy; you simply need to maintain the routine and provide daily exercise and attention. But if your pup has his own stuff, he’s less likely to chew on any cute baby toys you received as gifts.
Your pets likely don’t fully grasp why the home life they knew is changing. It’s important to make time JUST for your pet every day, even if it’s only a 15-minute play break, belly rub or one-on-one walk. This will help curb jealousy and bad behaviors that could come as a result. And remember above all, positive reinforcement goes a long way — praise your pet each and every time they exhibit good behavior with your baby. The repetition will catch on quickly, and condition your pet to recognize that minding its manners yields the most rewards! With all the additional stimulation, he may get into more trouble than usual. Do not scold his behavior, just try to redirect it.
Over time, both your pets and child will become more curious about each other and will start to investigate. As your tot begins exploring with his hands, show them that pets have boundaries, no-touch areas, and to always play nice. Keep food and water bowls out of reach from a curious child to prevent problems. Never leave your child alone with your pet. Certain behaviors could potentially scare your pets and make them unpredictable. Watch your pet’s behavior to tell if your pet is uncomfortable. If you are still not 100% confident about the safety of your baby with your pet, hire a professional trainer, join online support groups to talk with other parents, and consult with your veterinarian they may have some insight.
Having a family with pets have so many benefits. After all, your pets will be your childrens’ best friend. Having pets teaches children responsibility and compassion and gives them someone to always talk to. Pets teach us unconditional love and make the best lifelong friends.