Even the most cuddly, obedient pets can become jealous when a tiny pink bundle of joy arrives on their turf. Your cat or dog is likely used to receiving all the love and attention, but a new baby will change that. Your hands and time will be filled with caring for your new little family member and your pet may start to wonder who exactly stole their starring role. Thankfully, there are ways to prepare your fur baby for the arrival of your child and make the transition much easier for everyone.
1. Visit the Vet
Before giving birth, it's imperative you take your pet to the vet to ensure they are in good health. Any medical issues your pet may have could potentially affect your newborn since babies don't have the same immune system adults do. So, have the vet check your dog or cat for any illnesses to keep both baby and pet happy.
2. Expose Your Pet to Babies
If possible, introduce your pet to other babies before bringing home your own. Invite your friend and her baby over for lunch so your cat can get used to baby sounds and smells. Or take your dog to your family reunion so he can meet the newborn twins. Let your pet approach the infants on their own terms and try not to force interaction. If your animal wants to investigate, they will.
3. Carry a Doll Around
If there are no babies to whom you can introduce your pet, carry around a swaddled doll and pretend you have a baby in the house. It may seem silly, but this will acquaint your pet with your soon-to-be everyday routine. Practice activities like singing to the doll, changing its diaper and putting it to bed. Then, make these activities positive experiences for your furry friend by rewarding them with a treat and some cuddles.
4. Play Baby Sounds
In addition to faking a routine, playing baby sounds like crying, giggling and screaming will help accustom your pet to the new noise level you'll bring home with you from the hospital. Try playing the sounds softly at first and observe your pet's reaction. As they adapt to the noise, increase the volume until it matches what your baby will sound like. Slowly introducing louder sounds will make the transition easier for your pet.
5. Introduce Your Baby's Smell
After you introduce the sights and sounds of a new baby to your pet, the only thing left to do is familiarize them with your infant's scent. Of course, the only way to do this is after your little one is born. Send your husband home with a blanket or item of clothing with the baby's smell on it. Both dogs and cats learn a lot about their world with their noses, so acquainting them with the smell before bringing baby home will smooth the transition.
6. Don't Cross Share Toys
When you're pregnant, friends and family will surprise you with toys and gifts for your baby. Your curious pet may attempt to claim these stuffed animals, blankets and toys as their own. To prevent this, keep gifts out of reach and hidden. When your baby arrives home, your animal will know not to touch these items. Moreover, as your child grows, teach them not to play with the dog or cat toys.
7. Establish Boundaries
As they grow, babies become more inquisitive and, by the time they're crawling and learning to walk, their sense of curiosity is likely even more heightened. They will investigate everything from cabinet items to pets so it's important to set boundaries early on. Supervise pet and newborn interactions to ensure safety. And train your pet to stay out of the nursery in your absence. You might consider placing a baby gate to further establish boundaries.
8. Adjust Sleeping Arrangements
As part of establishing boundaries, you may consider moving your animal's bed to a different area of the house, further away from the nursery. Start by making their typical sleeping area inaccessible, then move their favorite cushion, blanket and toys to a new, more convenient location. Doing this before the arrival of your baby will reduce tension after you return from the hospital.
9. Move Pet Food
You may also want to switch up the location of your animal's food and water bowls. If it's out in the open, you risk the chance of your baby crawling over and tasting it. This could be dangerous for your child as your pet is likely still a bit territorial. Protect your animal's food and your child by keeping the kibble out of reach until it's time for your furry friend to eat. Or, keep food and water in a separate room and only open the door at mealtime.
10. Invest In Obedience Training
If you aren't completely confident in your pet's obedience or temperament, it may be smart to invest in obedience training. Practicing good behavior techniques before your infant's arrival will make your pet less likely to harm them or react aggressively. Behavior like jumping on the couch or playing tug-of-war won't be tolerated after the baby comes home. So, taking the time to discourage these actions now will prevent trouble in the future.
Your First Baby Needs Love Too
Having a newborn in the house is equally exciting and exhausting. And, in the chaos of new routines, midnight wakeups and early morning feedings, it's easy to forget your pet needs attention too. They crave love and affection just like your newborn.
Reassure them they are still part of the family by including them in new activities. Let them sit with you as you breastfeed, pet them while you hold your baby or give them treats while you prepare dinner. After all, a happy pet is usually well-behaved as well.