From Tori Tyree. Questions? Leave a comment or send her an email at [email protected]
So you’re having a baby! Congratulations. I’m sure you’ve got everything in order from the colors of the bedroom to the style of running stroller. Just don’t forget that the pets in your family need some preparation as well.
It may come as a surprise, but one of the top reasons people turn animals over the animal shelter is that they had a baby and the animals “act differently” so they have to get rid of them.
Remember, your dog or cat was there first, and is used to being the center of attention. It’s understandable that she may experience something similar to sibling rivalry when you introduce the newest family member to the household.
You can minimize this feeling by working with her before you bring home the new baby. For example, because your new baby will demand a lot of your time and energy, gradually accustom your pet to spending a little less time with you. Drastically decreasing attention and frequently scolding, ignoring or isolating your pet after the baby comes homes will likely make your pet feel stressed and act out in ways that may surprise you.
Below the fold: What to do both before and after the baby arrives.
Before the Baby Arrives
- Prepare the house with new smells and items. Sprinkle baby powder around the house; wear baby lotion or use baby shampoo. Also, leave out baby blankets, diapers and toys. Let the animal check out new furniture and additions to the house before the baby comes home.
- Fill the house with new sounds. Get a CD of a baby crying. Play it in 10 second increments up to a full minute every day and at varied times.
- Change new rules early. If your pet isn’t going to be allowed in a room, or jump up on the couch anymore- start teaching those new rules now so it doesn’t come as a surprise later.
- Have your pet see you with something new in your arms. Carry a baby doll and let your pet see you carry, bathe, feed, and cuddle it. Reward good behavior such as sitting and not barking. Having a positive experience during this time will help avoid jealousy later.
- Prepare in advance for someone to watch your pets while you are in the hospital. This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes it is forgotten. I recommend having several back-ups in case the day you’re due isn’t when your first option is available.
After the Baby Arrives
- Plan on how you are going to enter the home. Have one of the parents stay outside with the baby while the other goes into the house to greet your pets. Bring in an item that smells like the baby and let them smell the new scent. Sit down on the couch and make the animal remain calm for a few minutes before the entrance.
- Give your animal one-on-one time while the baby is sleeping. This is a great time for taking a walk with your dog, or snuggling in to take a nap with your cat
- Never leave your child unattended with your pet. Not even for a second. Children do not understand animal language yet and this is when most accidents happen
- Give your animal a safe place to retreat. Even with all of the preparation, an animal will still find some of this overwhelming so make sure they have a place they can go that is just for them!
- Reward good behavior. Let your pet know that you like what they are doing when they sit calmly by the baby.
Life is going to no doubt be hectic, but try to keep a regular routine as much as possible and just stay calm. Remember, your animals are a lot less stressed when they feel like you have everything under control. Following these few simple steps will help ensure a smooth transition for everyone.