Introducing Your Pet to a New Baby
What joy and excitement a new baby brings! But, how does your pet feel about it? He may have mixed feelings about the new bundle of joy. Keep your pet in mind as you transition to life with baby. This handout on introducing your pet to a new baby has some great tips. The Family Paws website does as well. The Humane Society of America has a nice overview of ideas, too, to get you thinking .
When introducing your pet to a new baby, slow and steady wins the race. Don’t force the interaction. To reduce stress when you first arrive home, put all pets in their carriers or rooms for a short time. Your hands will be full with car seats, flowers, diaper bags and oh–the baby! Get unpacked, get settled, and then release the hounds so-to-speak. If you are worried about the first meet and greet, put the car seat or something with the baby’s scent in their room and let everyone sniff.
For cat owners, your cat will likely commandeer the car seat for themselves as a new napping place. Most parents today have the nursery set up before the baby arrives so your pet is likely familiar with the new furniture, but perhaps not the new smells or sounds that just arrived. Take baby steps (pardon the pun).
Timing Is Key
For the big reveal, find a time when all parties (babies, pets and even parents) are awake, well fed and content. Let your pets approach the baby and sniff. You most likely will be pleasantly surprised at how eager they are to meet this new person who is sharing their space. Offer your pet lots of affection and verbal praise while they check out their new “sibling.”
After the introductions, go about your normal routine. If your pet seems stressed, perhaps some alone time in a carrier or room is in order. Not as a punishment, but as a quiet time to relax.
Quality Time Matters
Spend some alone time with your pets as you did before the baby. That may be more difficult with a new baby, but your pet deserves attention, too. Just you and your dog on a walk is a great reinforcement that they still matter and they are loved.
For cat owners, if you are used to a little lap time or evening cuddle, keep that up. Try to keep your pets’ routines as close to normal as possible. And be patient, this is new for everyone.
The biggest safety rule? Never leave your baby (or any child) and your pets together unattended. This includes nap time for the sleep deprived new parent! It is unlikely anything would occur, but don’t take the chance even with a trusted family pet.
Dog ears and kitty tails are nice things to hang on to unless you are on the receiving end of the grip. Always keep an alert eye on both your little one and your pets.
Life Long Safety
As your baby grows, teach him or her about pet safety and what it means to “pet nicely.” Show them where you can pet and where you don’t. Teach your children to never take toys away from a dog or cat when the toy is in use and never get near an animal when it is eating.
You have the responsibility of educating your children on pet safety—don’t leave that lesson to chance.
Sleepless nights and crazy schedules will happen. Through it all you have that unconditional love from your children whether they are the two-legged or four-legged variety. And that is what it is all about.
If you are having difficulty introducing your pet to a new baby, give us a call, 319-232-5292. We offer free behavioral consultations for our clients. We can help make this transition easier even if we can’t give you more sleep.