Petmums know that with our beloved Si Tompok or Fluffy, we already (kind of!) know what it feels like to be a parent. The immense love, the worrying over their food, picking up poop, and interrupted nights are all old news to those of us with furry friends.
But a new baby can change the dynamics around the house. The furbaby, who is used to being #1 now needs to get used to the idea of not being the center of attention anymore. Worse still, if the new mum has really old-fashioned relatives or doctors, they may be made to feel as if they need to make a choice: pet or baby.
The good news is that with some practice and training, you CAN create an environment wherein your furbaby and baby can grow up happily together.
Make sure your pet is clean and healthy
During your pregnancy, you should get your pet’s health vetted and get all necessary vaccinations. Spay or neuter your pet as they will have fewer health problems and will be calmer and less likely to bite.
For cats, the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis is a worry because it can result in miscarriage, stillbirth or other birth defects like blindness, deafness, hydrocephalus or epilepsy.
It is best to keep your cat indoors as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Also, avoid rubbing your eyes with your hands until you have washed them. Get someone else to clean their litter tray as well, as this is primarily how the infection spreads.
Acclimate your pet to the idea of a baby
Talk to your pet about the baby, using the baby’s name if you’ve chosen one. Sprinkle baby powder or baby oil on your skin so your pet becomes familiar with the new smells. It’s also useful to decrease the attention you pay to your pet slightly, as baby will take up lots of your time when he comes home.
Get your pets used to spending less time with you. Then when you bring the baby home, let them sniff at the baby gently. Leave a blanket or a piece of babywear in a corner so they get used to the new smell.
Keep calm and carry on
Your pets are super sensitive to your moods and emotions so you must be aware of your energy. Your dog will mirror your emotions, be it excited, anxious or worried. This is especially important when introducing the baby for the first time.
Calmly welcome your pet the moment you get home from hospital. Then let your pet sit with you next to the baby, rewarding him with treats for appropriate behaviour.
Remember, you always want your pet to view the baby as a positive thing. To prevent anxiety or injury, never force your pet to get near the baby, don’t shout or hit your pet, and always supervise any interaction.
You should also establish boundaries firmly, especially in the early days. If you’re nervous about letting your pets too near the baby, keep each interaction brief and always supervise. Let them know in which areas they are allowed, and which are off-limits. To some pets, a crib might seem like the perfect place for a cozy nap.
It’s important to let them know they will never be allowed in there. If your dog tries to jump up onto the crib, immediately clap your hands and say “Off!” in a firm tone. For cats, apply double stick tape to the furniture, as that is an unpleasant feeling for their paws.
Don’t forget the pet
Drastically decreasing attention and frequently scolding, ignoring, or isolating your pet after the baby comes home will make your pet feel stressed. Stressed animals act out; my beloved cat gifted me with puddles of pee every night for a week after my baby came home.
So do try to make sure that the pet is gently treated as much as possible to smoothen the transition. Life will no doubt be hectic caring for your new baby, but try to maintain regular routines to help your pet adjust. And be sure to spend one-on-one quality time with your pet each day—it may help you relax, too.
Teach your baby respect
Once your child is ready to explore, it is important to supervise all interactions between him or her and the pet. This is a great opportunity to teach your child not to yank the cat’s fur, to touch gently, not to bother the sleeping dog, and so these lessons on mutual respect cannot begin early enough.
Too many children have inadvertently provoked an otherwise peaceful dog, simply because they were unsupervised or their parents had not given them proper instruction.