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Prepare your pet for the new baby

Nina Spitzer is a SheKnows.com columnist and a freelance writer living in sunny Cave Creek, Arizona.

Baby & Pets

Sam has been your best friend for years. He adores you and has always given you unconditional love. He's seen you through thick and thin, and has been at your side through every crisis. Now, the baby's here and Sam is out the door.

Dog and Baby

Unfortunately, this is the fate for many pets - cats and dogs who have been replaced by a "new baby." Animal shelters receive millions of throwaway pets each year and many of them are due to a new baby. Just today this ad appeared on Craig's List:

NOODLES is a rare find--- a sociable, friendly, cheerful dog who loves everyone and wants to play, but isn't so wild and energetic that you feel like every walk is going to be a battle. Noodles was given up by her owner because of a new baby in the house---even though the owner told us how much Noodles likes kids.

The post also mentions that 11-month-old Noodles is destined for the euthanasia list at the city shelter tomorrow night if not adopted. What a sad fate for a sweet, cuddly pet who snuggles on the sofa and looks up at you with big, adoring eyes.

It doesn't have to be like this for the pet who was your FIRST "baby," teaching you how to be parents with the responsibility of caring and giving love. What it takes is learning a few ways of how to prepare your pet for the new baby before and after baby arrives.


How to prepare your pet for the new baby beforehand

Understand that your pet will need time and patience; after all, your cat or dog was your first "baby" and is already accustomed to receiving all the attention. A new baby means your pet will be bombarded with new sounds, smells, and things that will add stress to the adjustment period. Helping your pet get used to these before the baby arrives will make it easier when the baby comes home. Here are some ways to prepare your pet for the new baby while you're still pregnant. Remember to reward your pet with a treat when a positive response is exhibited.

  • Take your pet to the veterinarian for a routine health exam and necessary vaccinations.
  • Spay or neuter your pet for the obvious reasons, as well as the fact that altered pets are frequently calmer and less likely to bite.
  • Solicit the aid of a pet training to work on aggressive habits before the baby arrives.
  • Jumping and running activities around the house should be un-taught before the baby arrives.
  • Get into the habit of keeping your pet's nails trimmed. Consider getting your pet accustomed to acrylic nail caps that will not scratch baby.
  • Let your pet become accustomed to baby related noises. Let your pet hear the recorded sounds of babies crying as well as sounds of toys and other noisy items you'll be using with baby.
  • Encourage friends with babies to visit, being especially careful to supervise all baby/pet interactions.
  • Introduce your pet to the baby's room while training him on limits to where he is permitted to be.
  • Plan to use a removable gate or a screen door (for cats) as a barrier to the room, for times when you will want the room to be off-limits.
  • Use a baby doll to help train your pet how to behave around the swaddled bundle in your arms.
  • Let your pet become acquainted with baby smells like powder, formula and baby oil.
  • Let your dog get used to someone else walking him, especially if this has been your job.
  • Have a pet sitter lined up for the big day (and/or night)!

AND - Cats and pregnancy

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite found in raw meat and in the feces of cats ingesting raw meat. When a pregnant woman gets the infection, it can pose serious risks to her baby, but this is extremely rare in the United States. Getting rid of your cat is not the solution to the possibility of Toxoplasmosis since other types of exposures can also put you at risk. Avoid eating or handling raw meet, have someone else clean the kitty litter (or use plastic gloves) and keep your cat indoors. There's a simple blood test to check for the presence of the infection. Your doctor would be happy to address your concerns.



How to prepare your pet for the new baby after coming home

  • Before coming home with the baby, have someone take home something with the baby's scent (such as a blanket) for your pet to investigate.
  • Have someone take the baby to another room as you great him with a warm hello and treats.
  • Acquaint your pet to the baby a little at a time and under supervision. Have treats ready for rewarding proper behavior.
  • Find time to pay attention to your pet when not busy with baby.
  • Feed your pet just before feeding baby so that he won't want to get some of baby's food.
  • As baby get older, teach him to respect your pet and not pull ears, poke eyes, or do anything else that might frighten or upset your pet.
  • Cats frequently exhibit stress by urinating outside the box. Keep kitty litter extremely clean and relocate the litter box temporarily. The behavior should go away once the cat is comfortable with the new baby and the new routine.
  • Cats don't smother babies. They just like to cuddle near something warm. Keep your baby safe from this type of cuddling by using a latching screen door for the baby's bedroom.
  • Associate the presence of baby with positive things and positive rewards.
  • Use soft voices around your pet when he is close to your baby.
  • Never leave your pet alone with the baby!

And, they lived happily ever after...

There's no reason why this shouldn't be the end to your story, as well. Pets and babies can be a wonderful combination when the time is taken to prepare your pet for the new baby before the baby arrives. The pet that you've loved for so long can easily become a loving companion to your child as he grows rather than a statistic from the euthanasia list.

Resource: The Humane Society of the United States



More pet advice:

A new baby and the family dog
How to introduce pets to your children
Pets: Introducing them to the new baby
Prevent cat scratching with nail caps 


NEXT PAGE: Think again if you're considering getting rid of your pet because you have a child!!

See lots of adorable baby and pet pics next!

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