Introducing Your Baby To Pets
Some animals will love the new baby instantly and be protective towards it, others can feel jealous of a new baby if they don't receive their usual attention. Your pet is used to being your 'baby' and can be affected by a feeling very similar to sibling rivalry. Here are some tips to help get baby and pet introduced to each other to facilitate a safe and happy relationship between them!
What to do Before Baby is Born
There are steps you can take before your little one arrives to help prepare your pet for the new arrival. If your pet likes jumping onto your lap, train him to sit on the floor beside you until you invite him on your lap. If your pet shows any signs of aggressive behaviour, or has a nervous or anxious temperament, get advice from an animal specialist. Even if your pet isn't aggressive or fearful, you may want to consider enrolling in a dog training class. These show you how to effectively and humanely control your dog's behaviour, and enhance the bond between you. Neutered animals are generally much calmer than unneutered animals, so you might want to consider getting your pet spayed or neutered before your baby arrives. Animals also suffer less health problems when their reproductive organs have been treated.
Get your pet used to the idea of a baby by cradling a doll on your lap. Get them used to the baby's things, for example, turn on the baby's rocking chair and playing a recording of a baby crying. Use baby shampoo on your hair, and rub some nappy cream or baby bath onto your arm. Making the unfamiliar familiar will help your pet adjust more quickly when the real thing comes home.
The First Introduction
If you have a dog, try to get her used to the smell of your baby before you bring the baby home. Give her some blankets or clothes of the baby's to sniff. When you walk through the door, have someone else hold the baby so you can greet your pet in the usual way. Be loving and affectionate but try to keep the greeting calm. Your dog or cat will be interested in the baby so hold the baby so he can see it and have a sniff; they'll be less threatened or jealous of the baby if they get to investigate it. Don't force interaction however between your baby and your pet if your pet seems reluctant. If your dog growls, or your cat hisses, pull the baby away from them. Reward your pet with treats for appropriate behaviour.
Never leave your pet alone with your baby, even if they seem to have bonded with the baby, as animals are unpredictable. If the baby starts crying they might get nervous or feel threatened. If you put your baby down to sleep in a room, check your cat isn't anywhere in the room and keep the door closed so pets can't get into the room. To stop pets jumping onto your baby's cot or changing table, line the sides with double sided sticky tape.
To avoid pets becoming jealous of the new baby, give your pet their usual amount of love and attention. Make a fuss of them, and they are less likely to resent the new arrival. Don't however, wait until your baby is asleep or in another room to play with your pet. Make sure you play with them alongside caring for your baby, or they will think you will only play with them when the baby isn't around. You need to encourage them to associate the baby with having fun, and getting love and attention. Taking the baby in the pram and walking your dog at the same time will help your dog associate having fun with the baby, or kicking a soft ball around the living room while rocking your baby.
Constantly scolding your pet when you bring your new baby home will make your pet feel upset and stressed, especially if they have a very strong bond with you. To help your pet feel happier when the baby comes, have another family member work on developing a close bond with them before the baby arrives.
Letting Them Bond
At around 4 months of age, your baby will start taking an interest in the family pet. As she gets older, she'll start to copy how you play with your pet. Give her a ball or a dog toy that she can throw to the dog for him to bring it back to her. Show her how to stroke the dog or cat's fur. Always watch your baby around your pet, to make sure she doesn't play too roughly with it. Most cats and dogs might be willing to take a certain amount of rough play but most won't tolerate their tails or ears being pulled.
When your baby starts crawling, watch for signs that your pet might feel scared by this development. They aren't used to your baby being mobile so may growl, hiss, prick their ears up or show other signs of aggression. Talk to your vet if this starts happening, and keep them in separate rooms while this behaviour continues.
It's important to take extra precautions when you have a baby to ensure your pet doesn't carry germs which could harm your baby. Animals can carry germs and diseases such as worms, fleas, Rocky mountain spotted fever, ringworm, and ticks which carry Lyme disease. Take your pet to the vet regularly to check for these conditions. Keep your pet's nails short so they can't scratch your baby. Animal scratches can cause infections. Remember to wash your hands if you've touched your pet before preparing milk or feeding your baby, and wash your baby's hands after touching your pet. It's also important to not to let your pet lick your baby, as germs can easily spread through saliva.
Keep your pet's food and water bowls out of reach of your baby, as well as litter trays and poops scoops. Keeping them in a room that you don't allow your baby to go into also provides a place for your pet to go if they want some time away from the baby, which will make them more accepting of the new baby.
Certain pets aren't safe around babies and children, such as lizards, chicks, snakes, ducklings, snakes and frogs are they can carry dangerous bacteria such as salmonella.