This is a question we get asked all the time, and it’s not something most new parents are thinking about. You’re too busy worrying about yourself, your partner, and the baby to think of anything else. But for your pets to have a happy life with you, they need to adapt as well. So here are some tips on how best to prepare your pets for this new addition!
Before Baby Comes
Your pet may realise that something is brewing when you begin accumulating baby paraphernalia and rearranging rooms in your home during your pregnancy, so be sensitive to your pet’s needs. Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.
Prepare Your Pet for Baby’s Arrival
We got lucky, but it’s better to avoid diving in with no preparation. In fact, the more you do before your baby’s arrival, the more you can ease the transition for everyone.
Make a Plan
Whether your furry friend is a dog, cat, or another animal, the first thing you should do is to make a plan.
Dogs can be eager learners, but they can also exhibit jealousy because they are no longer the centre of attention. The same is true of cats. Felines can be temperamental, and some struggle with change.
As such, you’ll want to use the duration of pregnancy to prepare your cat or dog for the baby’s arrival.
Enrol your dog in basic obedience classes and relocate your cat’s litter box to a more private area.
You should also set up nursery furniture as soon as possible, as this will give your cat several weeks to investigate each surface before you declare it off-limits.
Introduce Your Pet to Common Baby Sounds and Smells
Newborns are noisy.
After all, they can only convey discomfort, hunger, sadness, or exhaustion by crying.
But the added commotion can be overwhelming to small animals. Dogs and cats can become distressed, frustrated, and agitated. To avoid this, introduce familiar sounds and smells to your pet before the baby’s arrival.
Using recordings of baby sounds in combination with treats to help your animals create associations.
Why? Because instead of becoming scared or upset by the noise, your dog or cat will welcome it. She’ll learn to look forward to them because they predict attention and treats.
Shift Routines and Pet Care Responsibilities
Everything will change when your little one arrives, for you and your pets.
The duration of daily walks may be reduced, the timing will almost certainly change, and both feedings and playtime will be impacted.
As such, if you will be your child’s primary caregiver, you may want to relegate these duties to a loved one or spouse or begin altering your daily routine.
Make gradual changes to schedules or caregivers before the new baby so that your pet won’t associate the changes with the new baby. Of course, there are more than just schedule changes on the way.
You can experiment with bringing the empty stroller with you on walks so that your dog can get used to the new system ahead of time.
This will allow you to work through challenges without the stress of a newborn in the mix. You may also want to hire a dog sitter or walker to alleviate some of the burdens on you.
Establish New Rules
Put boundaries in place before the baby’s birth is critical.
If not, your pet may come to resent your new bundle of joy. It is also easier to enforce these rules in advance when you are not living in an emotional, sleep-deprived haze.
If you don’t want your dog [or cat] on the furniture or the bed after the baby arrives, introduce that restriction now.
If you don’t want your dog to jump up on you when you’re carrying your new baby or holding him in your lap, start teaching her to keep all four of her paws on the floor.
The same goes for sleeping arrangements — if your pet is used to sleeping in your bed or room and you want that to change, it’s important to start putting those changes into place as soon as possible.
Bring Home Receiving Blankets or Onesies Your Baby Has Worn Before Discharge
One of the most popular and well-known ways to introduce your fur baby to your new baby is to bring home your little one’s receiving blanket or first outfit. Doing so will help your pet become familiar with the infant’s scent before their first introduction.
Expose Your Pet to Babies (if You Can).
If you have friends or family with wee ones, invite them over so your dog or cat can become familiar with their array of (loud) sounds and (weird) smells.
And even though your pet may seem to adore babies, never, ever leave the two of them alone. Even the most gentle of critters can be unpredictable.
Invest in Obedience Training.
Regardless of whether your pup has had professional training or not, it’s a good idea to consider enrolling him in an obedience training class.
Practising good behaviour techniques — like “drop it,” “stay,” and “down” will make him less likely to harm your little one unintentionally.
What might have once seemed like normal behaviours — jumping on the couch, pouncing, or playing aggressively with his toys — will be big no-nos once the baby comes home, so he needs to learn to listen and obey.
(Teaching a cat to behave is tough, but most of the time, they just run away and hide when they feel threatened.)
Get Your Pet Used to Life With a Baby in the House.
As silly as it may sound, try carrying around a swaddled baby doll and “practice” everyday baby activities to get your furball used to the routine: sing to the beauty, put her to bed, change her diaper.
It’s a good idea to play a recording of a baby crying at home too. Then make all of these positive experiences for your four-legged baby by offering him a tasty treat or playtime.
Try Out Different Sleeping Arrangements.
If a new bed or sleeping area is in the cards for your pet, introduce him to it sooner than later. Fix up a snoozing spot in a baby-free zone with his favourite blanket, pillow, or toy.
Take Your Pet for a Medical Checkup.
Be sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines (rabies shots are a must) and that she is flea- and tick-free.
Ask your vet about using a pill version or other effective method against these pests and safe to use around a baby.
Establish Boundaries Near the Nursery.
You should never leave your pet alone with your baby, so if your little one has a separate room, train your pet to stay out of it when you’re not there.
Don’t Leave Your Pet’s Food Out in the Open.
If your pet’s food-and-water station is in a spot, your baby will later be able to access, move it to a place that’s out of reach, or at least doesn’t invite a curious crawler.
You don’t want her sampling the kibble (it’s not fit for humans and a choking hazard) or bugging your puppy during his dinner.
Get Your Pet Used to Your Baby’s Scent.
Both dogs and cats learn a lot about their world through their sense of smell. Before you bring the baby home, have your partner introduce an unwashed piece of clothing — like a bodysuit or blanket — that your newborn has worn to your pet.
This helps him become familiar with your newborn’s scent. Try letting them sniff the new stuff you’re buying for babies (diapers, lotions, powders) to get accustomed to the fresh aromas.
When you bring a baby home for the first time, have your partner hold her while you say hello to your pet.
Then let the dog give the baby a sniff (she should be well swaddled, with her head and face protected by your arms). Then break out a special treat, so he learns that behaving well with the baby gets him the attention and praise he craves.
Bond With Your Pet and Your Baby.
You want your dog or cat to get the message that she’s still a beloved member of the family, so put those new-mama multitasking skills to the test by allowing her to sit next to you as your nurse or by playing with her while you cuddle with your baby. And try to spend at least five minutes of solo time every day with your affection-hungry pet — a happy cat or dog is usually a well-behaved one.
Make Some Racket
Babies come with all sorts of new sounds. Turning on your infant swing or toys that make noises (or even playing recordings of babies crying) can help your fur babies prepare for your home’s new soundtrack.
Start New Rules
Start prepping them for any new rules, like changes to when and where they’re allowed in the house.
Ignore Them Sometimes
Since you’ll probably be spending much less time doting on your pets once the baby’s around, you can help them adjust by slowly spending less time with them now.
It might be tempting to get in as much cuddle time as possible before the baby changes the scenery (we know it’s tough!), but gradual change is much easier on an animal than just cutting them off when you bring home your new bundle.
Your partner can also help out by forming a stronger relationship with the pets, redistributing a bit of the attention rather than cutting it out.
Bring in the Babies
Inviting friends to bring over their new children may help your pets get used to having an infant around and will allow you to see how your pets react to babies.
Be sure to monitor them closely!
Stop Bad Habits Now
Train your pets not to jump on the crib, jump in your lap without permission (that’s where the baby will be!), or engage in potentially harmful behaviours like jumping, swatting or nibbling.
Some moms use aluminium foil or double-sided tape on the crib and changing table to train cats not to jump up (both materials tend to freak felines out).
Change Your Pet’s Environment Gradually
Whether adding new furniture to your home or creating a nursery, do so in small stages to allow your pet time to adjust.
Pets rely on consistency, and even small changes to their environment can cause considerable stress. When the various areas are finished, play with your pet in those spaces to help build positive feelings about them.
Create Barriers to Areas of the Home
It can be exhausting to supervise pets while caring for an infant – especially when you’re home alone.
One easy way to manage this is to keep your pets on another level or area of your home by installing gates or closing doors. Whether your baby is sleeping in your bedroom or a nursery, be sure to keep the door closed to limit your pets’ access.
If your pet typically follows you around the house or sleeps in your room, gradually practice keeping them separated, so they’re accustomed to it by the time the baby comes.
Prepare Your Pet for Baby Sounds
A baby’s crying and screaming can be disturbing to animals, so preparation is vital. YouTube has plenty of videos of baby noises to help you.
Play the recording at a low volume while your pet is eating or playing. With each session, raise the book just a little until your pet appears more comfortable with the sounds.
Expose your pet to various baby toys and other sound-making devices before the baby arrives.
Prepare the Pet for Baby Smells
Begin to associate the smell of baby detergent, lotions, powders, and other products with high-value treats. This will form a positive association with your baby before they’re even born.
Start Training Now
If you have a dog, enrol them in obedience training. Once your dog can perform the basics, practice them while doing soon-to-be familiar baby tasks. For example, practice a down-stay while walking around with a doll.
Visit the Vet
Don’t forget to have your animals checked out by the vet before the baby comes along to make sure they’re healthy and updated on vaccinations. And remember to make arrangements for your pets’ care while you’re off delivering that baby!
Finally, relax and trust that everything will be fine. It might take some getting used to, but everyone will adjust to the new addition to the family soon enough.
After Baby Comes Home
Try to Keep Your Pet’s Schedule Intact
While everyone is busy with a new baby, try not to neglect your pet. Have one person play or walk them while someone else tends to the baby. Use calming pheromones to mitigate the stress of multiple visitors and confine the pet to a safe room if necessary.
Never leave a baby or small child unattended around an animal.
No matter how young or gentle the animal is, too many things can go wrong, and both parties could get hurt.
When the baby grows into a mobile child, supervision will be more pressing than ever. Your child can never be allowed to grab, chase, or pick up your pet, so keep them separate (behind a locked door, if necessary) when supervision isn’t possible.
Before bringing your baby into your home for the first time, introduce their scent to your pet.
Send home a blanket or article of clothing so the pet can investigate it.
When you come home, let someone else carry the baby and calmly greet your pet.
You could let your pet approach the baby on the couch. If things get too exciting, rather than banishing the dog or cat, take the baby away so the pet can calm down.
Your attitude around your pet is essential during this transition period.
Make every attempt to resume everyday life for the pet.
If he was allowed on the couch before, continue to let him up there. And be careful not to discipline your pet every time he comes near the new baby.
Some dogs find it comforting to spend time in a crate, but this must be an established preference before the baby arrives. Putting the dog in a box whenever the baby is around can be traumatic and should be avoided, Peterson says.
Supervising Your Pet and Baby’s Relationship
Animals are unpredictable, and babies make erratic movements, which may frighten pets. This is why you should always be present when your baby and pet are in the same room.
An accident might occur if the cat lies down on the newborn’s face, so caution is wise. Dogs can attack babies, so that’s a well-founded fear that should be addressed with supervision or separation, as needed.
When your baby is old enough to crawl or walk, teach them to stay away from your pet’s toys, food bowls, and litter boxes.
Child safety gates can keep babies away from litter boxes while still offering cats access to the facilities.
Things that don’t look appetising to us can be pretty appealing to babies and toddlers.
If your child accidentally ingests anything, call the emergency hotline. They’ll need to know the type of litter consumed, so have that information on hand.
Having Another Baby
Even if your pet adjusted well after the birth of your first child, it’s helpful to take the same steps every time you’re expecting an addition to the family.
Another baby, whether the second, third, or fourth, will be a change in the routine. Err on the side of needing to provide some transition. Looking for blankets for a baby cot? Look no further. My Baby Nursery has you covered.
Without question, it takes time and effort to prepare a dog for a baby, but it is time and energy well spent. Planning and erring on the side of caution can help everyone live a long and happy life together.