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Introducing Your Pet to Your Baby

By Colleen Williams
February 21, 2012 • 3 min. read
Dog and baby

Animals are sensitive to newcomers infringing on their territory. When you bring your new baby home, your cat or dog may experience some jealousy, which can manifest in aggression or anxiety. However, some pets may be more magnanimous towards the newcomer and integrate them into the household with no issues. There are some preventative measures you can undertake to ensure the transition goes smoothly, as well as guidelines for after your baby arrives.

Take a Training Refresher

You have nine months to prepare for your baby’s arrival – those preparations should include giving your pet a crash course in canine behavior. Having an out-of-control dog who doesn’t listen to your commands can be dangerous around a young child. There are many affordable dog training courses available in your area, and some pet supply stores offer courses as well; search online to find one locally. If your dog’s manners are up to par, just practice sits and stays at home. If you have a puppy, crate training is essential when you need to confine your pet. Work with your dog in the time before you bring your bundle of joy home, and you’ll find things around the house run much smoother!

Visit Your Vet and Groomer

While the mom-to-be has regular doctor’s appointments, it’s important to keep track of your pet’s health as well. Schedule a checkup for your cat or dog in advance to avoid any surprise health scares. If your pet has any pre-existing conditions, your vet can evaluate their status. Getting rid of any parasites, such as fleas or tapeworms, is also essential before you bring a baby home.

About a week before the baby’s arrival, give your pet a grooming session – a nail clipping, ear cleaning, and tooth brushing. If your cat or dog has long fur and requires professional grooming, this is the time for a fur-cut! Grooming reduces dander and cast-off fur, which newborns can be sensitive to. It’s especially important for cats to have their claws trimmed; felines may accidentally clip a baby’s skin, causing injury.

Acclimate Your Pet

If possible, set up the baby’s room a few months in advance to get your cat or dog used to its presence. Some parents prefer to keep the nursery pet-free, so now is the time to establish boundaries for your dog. Allow your dog to sniff around the room, but don’t allow him or her to remain inside unsupervised. If your pet tends to mark his or her territory, keep a close eye to prevent this from occurring. Dogs with noise phobias should be gradually introduced to infant crying; play recordings and give your pet positive reinforcement.

Before the new mom comes home from the hospital, have another family member or friend bring home a piece of the newborn’s clothing – a hat, sock, blanket – for your pet to smell. When the proud parents come home, allow your pet to sniff around each family member, minus baby. After everyone has calmed down, ask your dog to sit. Gradually bring the dog closer to the baby, until they are within a foot of each other; some gentle sniffing should occur, and the meeting will be over!

Provide “Me Time” For Your Pet

Dogs and cats can feel neglected after a new family member is brought home. It’s important to make sure you spend time with your pet, maintaining the daily routine you have built up with your dog or cat. There will be some unavoidable changes that come with adding a new human to the household, but try to keep the same feeding, walking, and bathroom break times as before. Some pets can develop separation anxiety or exhibit destructive behaviors and aggression if emotionally neglected. Regular walks or jogs with your dog can be important bonding times and show your pet how much they are still loved and cared for.

Adding a new member to the family – whether it be feline, canine, or human – can be stressful on existing pets. Bringing home a new baby is always a trying time for parents; ensuring your pet’s health can prevent any unwanted medical surprises. Grooming your dog or cat can counteract any irritants such as dander that might affect the health of a newborn. Gradual introduction of a new baby to your pet is essential, as is setting aside time to spend with your cat or dog. With preemptive measures, you can ensure the safety of the human and animal members of your household.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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