A cat or dog are often the first babies in a family, and as such are used to receiving an abundance of love and attention. Unfortunately, the addition of a child is among the top reasons people put their pets up for adoption. This does not need to be the case! With a little preparation, much like working with an older sibling for the arrival of a new baby, you can help your pet adjust to your growing family and keep them right where they belong, in your home.
Before baby arrives
- Set up a special place for your pet where they can go if they are feeling overwhelmed. This could be the laundry room, a mud room, a crate for a dog or a high shelf for a cat. It should never be used for punishment, ensure this is a happy retreat for your pet.
- Get them used to regular nail trimmings. Nails should be kept as short as possible to avoid any accidental scratches.
- If your pet exhibits fear or anxiety, address these behavioural issues with the help of a specialist. All pets should have a tune up on training to ensure they know and understand simple commands such as sit, stay and down.
- Spayed or neutered pets are calmer and less likely to bite or show aggression.
Before baby comes home from the hospital
- Have your partner or a grandparent bring home a sock or hat that the baby has been wearing to get them used to the scent of the new family member.
- Have someone else carry the baby in so you can lavish your pet with all the love and attention they deserve right off the bat. They missed you while you were away.
- Once they have calmed down, bring them over to meet the baby. Have treats on hand and reward good behaviour.
- But remember, don’t force your pet to go near the baby if they seem hesitant and keep an eye on them at all times when they are around the new baby.
Another concern cat owners may have is about the litter box. You may have heard that pregnant women should not have a cat or go near a litter box due to toxoplasmosis because it can cause serious birth defects. However, toxoplasmosis is a rare disease and is actually quite easy to avoid. According to the Humane Society, while “this disease-causing parasite may be found in the feces of cats who ingest raw meat, birds, mice or contaminated soil, it is more commonly found in uncooked or undercooked meat”.
Another thing to consider is the amount of attention your pet receives. While some people suggest gradually reducing the amount of time and attention your pet receives leading up to the arrival of baby, personally, we took a different approach. We had a rule that all visitors were to greet the dogs first when they came over. This was what the dogs were used to and the baby had no idea anyway. We also, set aside time each day to ensure they got the exercise, love and affection they needed.