Every year, hundreds of animals are sent to new homes or an animal shelter when the new baby arrives. The wonderful benefits of having an animal friend for children to play and grow up with are well documented. But some parents are still nervous. You can make it easier for your cat or dog to cope with the introduction of the newest member of the family.
All animals become stressed if their routine is disrupted and they feel they are no longer important. A cat, once the center of your life, may feel left out if all your attention is suddenly focused on the new baby. A dog may treat the baby like a puppy, using its mouth and paws to show the new addition who the dominant dog is.
There are some steps you can take to ensure your pet readily accepts the new baby.
• Minimize changes to your pet’s routine and living area. Big changes, such as redecorating a room, should be done early, so the animal has time to adjust to the new surroundings. You can use this time to teach the cat or dog not to sleep in the crib.
• Bring baby blankets covered with the baby’s smell before you bring home baby. Both dogs and cats will have a chance to become familiar with the new scents, and to recognize them as normal. Try to familiarize your pets with the smells of powders and lotions you intend to use.
• Spend time with your pet and baby together. Speak to the pet as you feed or change diapers. This will reassure the animal he is still part of your life and the baby is now part of his.
• Play a recording of a baby’s cry. This will help your pet recognize and get used to the sound. Petting them as they listen will help diminish their anxiety.
• Let your pet investigate the baby’s belongings. They are all so new and interesting!
• There are a few reported cases of dogs pouncing on baby equipment that moves forward and back. It is thought the back and forth motion simulates an attack-retreat-attack behaviour. Before placing baby in any equipment, such as a swing, turn it on for a few minutes at a time, throughout the day. After your dog gets used to the motion, place a doll in the seat and repeat the procedure. Your dog will soon ignore the item.
• If this is your first baby, acquaint your pet with other children prior to your new arrival.
• Give your pet a place to go which is quiet and secluded. It will give him a place to rest, away from the excitement.
• Never leave your pet and child alone, no matter your child’s age. This will protect your child from an exuberant pet and protect your pet from an enthusiastic child.
• Suspected allergies to pets may really be allergies to other household items such as laundry detergents and new foods. If your child shows symptoms of allergies, consult your doctor.
These steps can help make your home a place in which children and pets live in happiness and harmony.