While many of us want our pets and children to instantly fall in love, that’s not often realistic. Relationships take time to build, and we want to help ensure that the one between your pet and your baby gets off on the right foot! First things first, though! It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – any contact between baby and pet must always be supervised. For the safety of all parties, there can be no exceptions to this rule. Now, let’s get started!
1. Pet Sitter
Ask a family member who your pet loves and trusts to watch your pet for you while you are in the hospital – either in your home or at their home if they and your pet are comfortable.
2. Get Pet Used to Baby’s Scent before You Return Home
Ask the hospital or birthing center for an extra cap. Some parents like to keep them as mementos, so if you are one of them, ask for a third one. Have the baby wear the bonus cap frequently, then remove the cap and cut a hole in the top of it. Give it to your pet-sitting friend, and instruct them to place the cap over a new toy (one your pet is not inclined to destroy) so the toy should smell a lot like your baby. If possible, keep the cap with your pet for a day or two so your baby’s scent isn’t completely strange to him when you bring baby home.
3. The First Introduction
When introducing your baby to your pet, take it slow in order to set your pet up for success. It’s never a good idea to force your baby on the pet, or vice versa. Keep baby in your arms, and the pet (even if it’s a cat) on a leash (with another person holding onto the leash) just in case your pet reacts in a scared, excited or pushy fashion. If you have multiple pets in the household, introduce one pet at a time. Limit the contact time each pet has with the baby, so that they do not become too overwhelmed or overstimulated. Pets need time to process these things, too!
4. Keep to Your Pet’s Usual Schedule
We know the world turns upside down once a newborn comes home. That being said, do your best to keep your pet’s feeding and play schedule as consistent as possible. Adding a new person to the household can be scary for some pets, and following their old routine will go a long way towards helping them feel secure! It also allows you to still spend quality time with your fur baby!
5. Play Area
Have a distinct “play area” for your baby and for your pet. Don’t mix baby toys with pet toys or vice versa.
Signs Your Pet is Anxious or Overwhelmed
Lastly, here are some warning signs your pet is feeling anxious or overwhelmed! Provide time for a break and separate your pet and your baby right away.
- ears laid back or straight forward
- cowering or very tense
- shaking or unusual panting/pacing
- growling or showing his/her teeth
- Sneezing and yawning aren’t typically aggressive signs, but can express anxiety or concern. Observe these signs with caution and be ready to remove your pet if signs progress.
- ears back
- urinating or defecating outside litter box.
Cats will do best if you can give them a safe place to escape from the baby (but still provide access to the rest of the house) like a bedroom or the basement. Food and water, toys, a litterbox and a bed should be provided for your cat in this area.
If you ever notice your pet displaying warning signs or acting otherwise unusually, consider reaching out to a pet behaviorist or trainer right away. The sooner you notice issues, the easier it will be to correct behavior issues before a problem develops.