Preparing Your Pet for A New Baby
Before Your Baby Arrives Make sure Your Pet is:
- Spayed or neutered
- Nails clipped
- Rid of fleas (no collars)
Work to Correct Existing Behavior Problems:
- Dogs: jumping, pulling, mouthiness, barking, getting on furniture, possessiveness
- Cats: play aggression, inappropriate elimination, jumping on high surfaces
Desensitize Your Pet to the Sights, Sounds and Smalls of a New Baby
- Sights: crib, changing table, toys, diaper bag, playpen, highchair
- Sounds: crying, screaming, gurgling, laughing baby (tape record a friend's baby)
- Smells: powder, lotions, baby oil, diapers (dirty one with ammonia and water), bottles and formula
- Take your dog on his walks with a stroller so that he learns to walk nicely beside it
It is important that you introduce these things to your pet before the baby arrives. Cats and dogs have very sensitive ears and a very acute sense of smell. Introducing all of these new things and a new baby at the same time could cause severe stress in your pet. Go slowly, do not overwhelm your dog with everything at once.
Make the introduction of any new sight, sound, or smell a positive experience. Pair it with a special food treat, a fun play session, or extra attention. This will help your pet adjust to the changes and make him feel much better about them.
Consider What Your Pets New Routine will be After the Baby Arrives and Change it Now
Walks, feeding time, play time, cuddle-time
Let your pet first explore any areas that will be off-limits (nursery) and then exclude him from them well before the baby arrives. A screen door on the nursery is a great idea to keep cats and dogs out but allow them to still hear, smell, and see the baby..
Create a private, comfortable “retreat” for your pet to go to when things get hectic. Form a positive association with this place (crate or out-of-the-way room) by spending quality time there, feeding him there, or giving him extra special treats or toys there. This way, when you need to confine him after the baby arrives he will not feel like he is being banished
Cat Owners: Be Aware of the Risks of Toxoplasmosis
The organism which causes toxoplasmosis is sometimes found in cat feces, raw meats, or garden soil. A pregnant woman who is exposed to toxoplasmosis during her first trimester risks harm to her fetus (mental retardation, developmental abnormalities, or miscarriage).
Take the following precautions: do not change the litter box (have another family member do it), wear rubber gloves when gardening, wash hands thoroughly after handling raw meat.
While Mom and the Baby are Still at the Hospitals
Bring home a blanket and piece of clothing with the baby’s scent on it for your pet to investigate. Tape-record your baby crying, gurgling, or just breathing and play the tape at home. Don’t forget to make a positive association by offering a special treat or fun game when introducing these things.
The Meeting Day
Mom should enter the house alone and greet the pet because he will be excited to see her following her absence. Someone else should then bring the baby into the house and sit quietly on the sofa. Let your pet investigate the baby (dogs should be on a leash at first). Stay relaxed and positive. If you act nervous, your pet will be nervous too. Praise your pet for calm behavior.
From Now On
Never leave your pet and your baby together unsupervised. Accidents happen!!
Make sure you give your pet plenty of attention – both with and without the baby around.
Recognize the signs that your pet is feeling stressed and try to help him through this time of change. Signs of stress in dogs and cats include: excessive vocalization (barking/whining; meowing/howling), restlessness, lethargy, anorexia, destructive behavior, hiding, inappropriate elimination (urinating or defecating in house or outside litter box or spraying), panting, pacing, excessive grooming, increased aggression, attention seeking behaviors.
Courtesy of Kelley Bollen, MS, CABC - Animal Alliances, LLC
Last update on Oct 6, 2014 by Bob Burch.