If your pet is used to being Number 1 in the house there will most likely be some jealousy at no longer being the centre of attention once a little person arrives on the scene, especially if they are used to being the ‘baby’ of the family. Here are a few ways to ease the pain for your feline or pooch and make sure the new siblings can get to know each other in a safe enjoyable way.
Start to give them less attention:
This may sound harsh but if your pet is used to your undivided love and affection it will come as a huge shock when this demanding little person arrives and they suddenly get ignored. Try pulling back a little in the months before baby arrives. If Mum is usually the main pet carer get Dad or another family member to start feeding them, walking them and generally paying more attention to them. This way your pet won’t feel so suddenly rejected when you are distracted with baby.
Give Mum a reprieve from litter box duty:
Cats faeces can carry toxoplasmosis, a parasite that can have devastating effects on an unborn baby if a woman is infected during pregnancy. If you have cats it is advisable to be checked for the antibodies to toxoplasmosis, pregnant women should avoid dealing with litter trays altogether if possible and if you do have to clean up after kitty use rubber gloves and a mask to avoid inhaling any litter dust.
Get them a clean bill of health before baby arrives:
Make sure your pet is spayed or neutered, not just to avoid any surprise new family members but also because sterilized pets are often calmer and less likely to bite. Even if they are already sterilized it’s a good idea to take your pet to the vet before baby’s arrival to ensure they are up to date with vaccinations and that there are no other health issues on the horizon. Ensure all pets in the house are up to date with flea and worm treatments, vaccinations and any other potential health concerns are checked out.
Curb the Bad Behaviour – now
It is especially important to address any unwanted behaviours or issues before baby arrives. Problems such as jumping up, rough play or pawing or swatting at you can be fixed fairly easily with the right training. If your pet displays any aggressive behaviour it is imperative to have this checked and dealt with before baby arrives- talk to your vet or seek the advice of a pet behaviour specialist if you have any concerns about unwanted behaviours in your pet.
Start making baby noises:
Some pet experts advise you should start to pretend baby has already arrived a few months early so they get used to the new sounds and routines, for example you could start to carry around a doll, or play baby sounds, use the rocking chair, or even take walks with the new buggy to get your pup used to it.
Invite friends with babies to come over and introduce them to your pet (with full close supervision of course) to get them more accustomed to little people, their smells and noises.
Make sure you have a plan in place for your pet to be looked after, fed or walked if needed while you are at the hospital and in the first few days after the baby arrives when things may not go to plan and are all a bit topsy turvy.
When baby arrives:
The first time you bring baby home greet your pet in a calm warm manner, allow them to be near you and smell the baby and reward them for good behaviour with calm verbal praise and treats. You want the first few interactions with baby to be positive, not stressful. Don’t force the pet to go near the baby if they are not sure and always supervise any interaction closely.
If there is any unwanted behaviour from your pet speak calmly and firmly. Perhaps purchase some new toys/ treats for your pet to make them feel loved and distract them from the fact they are no longer top dog. Putting double sided tape around cribs, couches and any other furniture is a good way to discourage pets from jumping up on them.
Cats are infamous for finding their way into baby’s cots and curling up next to them, while this may seem cute it’s really not a good idea, if you baby suddenly makes a noise that frightens them they may bite or scratch and of course even with the best preventative measures in place pets may still carry fleas, worms and other nasties. A mosquito net over the cot is a good deterrent however it is best to keep pets out of the baby’s room altogether especially when they are sleeping.
If you have any doubt about your pet’s ability to be civil with your new baby seek the advice of a vet, but with the right preparation, guidance, safety measures and positive interaction your baby and pet will grow up to be the best of friends.
Have you introduced your pet to a new baby? How did the relationship work out? Let us know in the comments below or over on our Facebook page. Better yet, post us a pic of the two of them enjoying each other’s company on our Instagram page with the hashtag #babyviewpics
‘Alexandra is a freelance writer and Mother of 2 girls aged 9 and 14, she enjoys writing about N.Z. family life and her own parenting experiences. Both her daughters have chronic health conditions which has led to a unique perspective on parenting which she writes about along with many other topics in her blog:http://www.justmesayingblog.wordpress.com