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Expecting a baby is the most amazing and exciting thing that will change not only your life but also the life of your pets. It’s only natural that you worry how the baby and the pet will get along or how your cat or your dog will react to the new addition to the family. Here, I’ve compiled a short guide how to introduce pets to newborn babies and what you should do to keep the harmony in your house. Enjoy!
#1 Early preparation
Both cats and dogs are creatures of habits, and they don’t like it when things change suddenly. That’s why it’s necessary to start preparing your pet for the new family member before the baby is born. Here are several steps you should do before the birth no matter if you have a dog or a cat:
Schedule a check with your veterinarian to make sure that your pet is in good health and that you haven’t missed any shots and vaccines;
Play pretend by carrying a lifelike doll so that your dog or cat gets used to seeing you with a child and make sure that they don’t jump on you while you’re holding the doll;
Change the rules – if you don’t want your pet sleeping with you in the bedroom or jumping around, now is the time to establish these boundaries;
A few weeks before the delivery put the baby’s things in the room;
Pick a private spot for your pet where he could get some alone time;
Consider a baby readiness class for your pet;
Get the dog and the cat used to the sound of a crying baby.
If you have a cat, you should:
Make the nursing room off limits. If you don’t establish this, you might find keeping the cat away from the baby and out of the crib difficult and challenging. For cats, the crib is just another warm place to sleep, and you don’t want your cat snuggling with your newborn since it could impede the baby’s breathing;
Relegate litter box cleaning to someone else to avoid toxoplasmosis
Gradually move the litter box if it’s near the baby’s room
Get the cat used to having her nails trimmed
If you own a dog, you must:
Do practice walk with the stroller and train your dog to walk next to you at all times
Enroll the dog in obedience class, if you haven’t done it already
Avoid playing rough, wrestling and tug-of-war
Train the dog to stop begging for treats so that he won’t jump near your newborn.
Train the dog to answer commands like “Stay!” “Leave it!” “Enough!”
#2 The first meeting
You know what they say – the first impression is what matters, so make sure that it’s a pleasant one. Some professionals recommend that you bring a blanket from the hospital or something else belonging to the baby so that your pet might get familiar with the scent. It’s also a good idea not to introduce the baby to the pet immediately when you get home from the hospital. Give your dog or cat time to get used to the presence of the newborn in the house.
Start the introduction slowly, patiently, and gently – if you have a cat let her come near and check things out, if you have a dog, keep him on a leash and gradually let him come closer, without forcing the issues. It’s best if someone is helping you so that one person handles the baby and the other one the dog. You must talk soothing, praise and reward your pet so that it will associate the baby with positive experiences.
If you see any aggressive behavior, for example, the dog growling at the baby, get the newborn away from your pet and try again later or consult a professional trainer. The growling is a red flag that your dog is uncomfortable and that you have to take precaution. Do not punish the dog because that will make him associate babies with bad things.
On the other hand, if you notice that your dog is barking when the new baby cries, he is probably still not used to the sound. That can turn into a problem if you are trying to put your child to sleep, so it’s important for you to learn to calm the baby down before things get worse or begin training your dog not to bark at the baby when it’s crying even before the birth. You can do this by playing tracks with a crying baby at loud volumes until your dog is completely comfortable with it.
Of course, it’s exhausting to care for a newborn baby and your dog or cat will probably feel left out, so it’s important to remember to spend some quality time with your pet. Cats are less dependent than dogs, and they rarely feel jealousy, but it’s not uncommon for dogs to be jealous of the baby. To avoid that - invite your dog to share your baby time. For example, tend the baby with one hand and pat the dog with the other, and don’t forget to take your pet when you go out with the baby for a walk.
#3 Safety tips for keeping the peace in the house
I’m sure you have watched numerous clips on YouTube of dogs playing with babies, but there are rules you should stick to when you have a pet and a child in the same house.
Never leave your baby and pet unattended, even if the baby, the dog or both are asleep. You don’t know what might provoke the pet even if it’s well-trained, obedient and easygoing.
Don’t force your pet to spend time with the baby if he doesn’t want to
Most babies show an interest in petting dogs when they are about six months old. Keep an eye if the dog is comfortable playing with the baby. And don’t leave them alone!
Get a net for the crib. Cats are sneaky, and even if you don’t own a cat, your neighbor’s feline might get curious and come to check things out.
Get a safety gate to keep your child and pet apart.
Use only positive reinforcement.
Don’t shut off your pet while you’re caring for the baby.
If you feel that things are not getting better and your dog or cat shows consistent signs of aggression towards the baby, you might consider finding a new home for your pet. But this is an extreme measure to be used when everything else fails.
As you can see, it won’t be love at first sight, and it may take months until your pet is feeling comfortable around your child, but I’m sure you all agree that it’s beneficial for your child to be growing up with a pet.
Please, share your experience and tell us how your baby and your pets are getting along. Don’t forget to like and share the article if you have learned something new. Until next time!