There can be some concern about introducing a baby into your dog or cat-friendly household. For expectant mothers, you may have noticed your pet clinging to you, wanting your undivided attention or being very protective, and acknowledging the changes to your body before most others will. With some planning prior to the arrival of the baby, Sparky will grow accustomed to this new member of the family. Here are some simple but effective tips to make this process smoother for both pet and mommy.
1. Allow your cat or dog investigate the nursery once it is all set up. Make it clear that this is not your pet’s room and it is off limits unless he or she is invited. Spend some time in the nursery alone to let your pet know that you will be spending time in the room without them.
2. Begin playing a recording of baby noises around the house (particularly in the nursery), and reassure your pet that these sounds are safe and normal. When the sound of a baby crying happens in the recording, spend some time in the nursery. After a little while, turn down the volume so your pet understands the crying will eventually stop.
3. Bring home the baby’s cap or blanket from the hospital before the baby arrives. These items have both the baby’s scent as well as yours and are best preserved if kept in a sealed bag. Place the item in a location that is easily accessible to your pet so he/she can inspect it.
4. When mother and baby return home from the hospital, put the dog outside or cat in another room. Since your pet has not seen mom in a few days, he or she could be very excited. Once the baby is safely in the nursery, mom should spend some time with the pet so they can reacquaint themselves.
5. Introduce a new baby to your pet(s) about a day after he or she arrives home. This will give your pet a chance to hear the baby’s sounds. Let your pet sniff the baby’s blanket first, NOT the baby’s face. Pay attention to your pet…if the pet is unsure, try again another day. If things seem to be going well, you can allow your pet to continue smell the baby’s hands and finally, face. It may take a little while, but your pet will get used to your new addition.
The most important thing to remember about introducing a pet to a newborn is to always be aware of the pet’s body language and behavior. An adult must be present at all times, as a baby has no defense mechanisms or ways of communicating with your pet. With some patience and careful guidance, your new baby and your pet will become lifelong pals!