Your first baby, the four legged one, is blissfully unaware of how its life is about to change. Soon, the spotlight will be shifted to your baby.
Is your pet ready for these impending changes? Soon there will be a loud, crying baby who keeps everyone up at all hours of the day and night. The play time and attention your pet is used to will lessen. No matter how much you disagree with that statement, trust me, it’s inevitable. You only have so much time in a day to care for and love everyone and everything in your home, and your newborn WILL monopolize your time.
Never fear! I have gathered the most helpful information, tips and tricks to start adjusting your pets to their new life, before your baby arrives.
Remember, a slow transition is a much better approach than the sudden-shock method. Don’t underestimate your pets. They are intuitive and I’m sure they have noticed your growing baby belly. They can smell a difference and tell a baby growing inside you. Let them snuggle with your belly and sniff it when they want to. Make them feel comfortable in their early bonding process.
Sometimes early baby preparations can be unsettling to pets. I’m sure you have been preparing a nursery, painting walls, putting together a crib, hanging pictures etc…
The moving of furniture and redecoration of space can cause some pets anxiety. Make sure you show your pets comfort in this time by petting them, talking to them, offering them treats and allowing them a safe space. Did you know that crates can be an area of comfort for pets, especially dogs? Dog’s are den creatures by nature. Giving them a confined space that is theirs, and even covering the crate with blankets, can give them a sense of security.
Early on you have some decisions to make. Decide now if you are going to allow pets into the nursery. There are several concerns associated with allowing pets into the room. Here are some things to consider:
Cats can turn a baby crib into a cat bed. This could prove to be dangerous once the baby comes if the cat becomes territorial of the space or tries to lay on the baby’s face while resting. Cats can also spray the room if they are nervous and feel the need to mark the new space. Dogs can also be territorial. On the other hand, dogs can feel a strong attachment to the baby once it is born and want to be close to the child. Some dogs could unintentionally hurt the baby trying to be close to it due to size and weight. If you plan on letting pets into the nursery, make sure you are always supervising once the baby arrives. Begin acclimating the pets to the room and let them get used to the furniture and smells. Always differentiate between pet toys and baby items. There should be no confusion about this so pets do not come aggressive with the baby.
If you do not plan on letting pets into the nursery, put up baby gates on the doors and possibly netting over the crib.
Give pets time to get used to baby gates and boundaries. There are other products that might be helpful for cats called, “sticky paws.” This is a non-toxic product. It applies a tactile feel to furniture that cats can’t stand and detours them from unwanted areas and furniture.
Begin introducing baby items to your pets. Let them smell blankets, clothes, lotions and diapers. Again, I can’t stress this enough, make sure they know that baby toys are not theirs.
You do not want any miscommunication or toy aggression to happen between a pet and a defenseless baby.
Pets don’t do handshakes or have conversations to get to know each other.
Smells are a big deal to pets. That’s how they get to know everyone and everything. After your baby is born, take a blanket that your baby has been swaddled in home to your pets. Leave it with them and let them smell it all they want. Due to COVID restrictions, you may have to ask a friend or family member to take it for you, as you may not be allowed to leave the hospital and come back.
We spoke to a local veterinarian office called Paws of Hope Animal Wellness.
Heather Bailey, with Paws of Hope, advised us to buy CD’s of baby music and sounds of a baby crying to desensitize pets to the noise that will take place when your baby comes home. She also said it’s important to gradually change your pet’s routine. For instance, if your pet’s sleeping arrangements are going to change, start this process now. Never wait until the baby comes home to make a change like this as it could cause jealousy and depression issues with your pet.
It is inevitable that the time you give your pet will lessen.
You are bringing home a very demanding tiny human. Beat this into your brain now, “You only have so much of yourself to give.” Everyone has to adjust to life’s new changes. Everyone will be okay. Gradually start lessening the amount of time you spend loving on your pet. If you take extra walks, cut one out. This could help your pet not feel so much jealousy toward your baby.
Never trust your pets around your baby.
I briefly covered this already. Always supervise interaction between pets and babies. Babies have very erratic movements that can scare pets. Pet’s could interpret a baby’s kicks and screams as aggression. Always be mindful of body language. Remember, you set the mood. Be a cautious leader for everyone.
If you go on regular walks with your pets, start taking a stroller with you.
Get your pets used to walking along side of a stroller. It can even be a good idea to place a baby doll in the stroller where your baby will go. Put a little bit of baby lotion on the baby doll and let your pets acclimate to the different smells and atmosphere your baby will bring.
As I have mentioned before in different blogs and podcasts, make preparations now to have your pets cared for when it’s time to have your baby.
Get your pet used to the care-taker. Make sure this person knows security codes, house keys, feeding routines, medication directions, walk and play instructions. Make this arrangement now! I have one dog who can’t rest and relax when I’m not there. If you have an especially nervous pet, talk to your vet about anxiety medication for the time you will be in the hospital. Get these plans in place now so your pet can receive the utmost comfort while you’re away.