Prospective parents who have pets need to consider special issues regarding their animal family members. For the most part, a cherished pet is kind of like a baby. The main difference is that they never seem to grow into adults. Because of this, pets need to be handled with care as the family prepares for baby.
Initial Adjustments and Training
The first aspect for a new mother to consider is their baby’s safety. Below are some things to do to prepare animals and the environment for their new “sibling” on the way.
1. Take your beloved pet to the veterinarian for a routine exam and ensure that they have all of the necessary vaccinations. Explain that you would like some ideas on how to prepare the pet for baby’s arrival. Often, vets will have some helpful pointers, and will work with you on preparing your pet physically as well as emotionally.
2. If not already doing so, have the animal’s nails clipped on a regular basis so they can get used to this routine. Also consider neutering or spaying the pet. Sterilized pets usually have fewer health problems which makes them safer to be around a new baby. Also, because spayed and neutered animals are calmer, they are less likely to become agitated out of the blue and snarl, swat or bite.
3. Consult with your pediatrician about safety for the baby and how the newborn may interact with the family pet to learn the best tactics.
4. Address pet training or behavior problems. If the pet already exhibits fear and anxiety, get help from an animal behavior specialist. For instance, if a pet nibbles gently or paws at people, the trainer can address this and teach the animal more appropriate behavior.
Introducing Your Pet to the Baby
Regardless of how much the family plans ahead, there is no telling how a pet may react to a new baby. Remember, your pet has been used to being the center of attention. Therefore, it only makes sense that a dog or cat may experience something similar to sibling rivalry once a new human baby is introduced into the household.
When you bring the baby home, introduce your pet to his human sibling in a controlled environment. Let your pet sniff the baby to become familiar with its scent. Then, as you go through the routines of feeding, bathing, and playing with your baby, allow the pet to observe and interact if his behavior warrants. It’s probably best to not leave the baby and the pet alone and unsupervised at first. When you’re involved in household tasks, place the baby in a crib or playard for safe keeping until you’re sure the pet has accepted the baby’s presence.
Because the new baby will demand a lot more of your time and attention, get the pet adjusted to spending more time by themselves or with others. Be aware that drastically decreasing attention or frequently ignoring, scolding or isolating the pet after the baby arrives will more than likely make the pet feel stressed out. For pets who are particularly attached to mothers-to-be, enlist another family member to develop a closer bond with the animal. That way, pets will still feel loved and attended to while mom is busy with baby.
The best defense is always offense. Therefore, preparing a pet for a new addition is much easier when you consider that the animal was essentially your first baby. Also, by working with the family and consulting experts before baby is born, any issues can be resolved early to put everyone’s mind at ease, including the pet’s and the baby’s.
Richard Freeland raised two boys alongside several curious dogs and cats and contributes these helpful tips for all new parents who have family pets and will need help keeping those pets happy, and keeping the infant safe. For the pet owning family, an InGenuity washable playard is an all-in-one baby care center and a perfect helpmate, providing that secure, convenient space for baby to play in comfort and safety while keeping the family dog or cat close by, but out of reach.