One of the most significant and happy moments in people’s lives are when they bring home a new-born baby. It’s a time of joy and celebration, but it’s also a time of serious contemplation and adjustment, especially if you have pets at home.
With all the things you have to think about as new parents, your pets might not seem like a big deal, and they won’t be as long as you give the situation some time and consideration.
Here are a few tips to consider utilizing for a smooth transition from a home with just you and your pets to one that includes a baby.
While You Are Pregnant
First of all, before you even bring baby home, keep in mind that pregnant women should avoid cleaning the cat litter box. Exposure to cat feces or soil that might be contaminated by parasites can lead to toxoplasmosis, a dangerous disease that can cause serious birth defects.
These parasites can also be found in raw or undercooked meat, and unwashed fruits and vegetables. Outdoor/indoor cats can become infected if they eat birds or mice that carry this parasite.
To avoid this danger, have someone else clean the litter, avoid handling raw meat, and avoid gardening (soil may contain this parasite). Clean any utensils, knives, and cutting boards that have had contact with any raw meat. If you have to clean litter, use rubber gloves and wash hands thoroughly afterward. You can always have a blood test done by your doctor to ensure that you weren’t exposed to this parasite.
Bringing Home Your Baby
When you are ready to bring the baby home from the hospital, remember that you probably treated your pet as the “baby” up until that point. Your pet will have to adjust to the new situation. There are a few things you can do in the weeks before you have your baby to start adjusting your pet to the new family member.
You might want to consider exposing your pet beforehand to baby items and scents, such as a crib, bassinet, stroller, rattles, baby powder, and lotions. You can also use a recording of a baby crying to get them accustomed to the sound.
Since you will most likely have less time to spare for your pet, start decreasing the time you spend with him. If you might have to change any routines post-baby, start changing them well in advance of baby’s arrival. Don’t drastically decrease the time and affection you give your pet. You want your pet to view the new baby as a positive experience, and not associate it with losing your attention and affection.
If your pet hasn’t been exposed to babies or young children before, take the time to do that. Ask relatives or neighbors to visit with children and supervise the visits.
If you have a dog, make sure the dog has had obedience training and will listen to your commands. Your dog should especially respond to basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “no” or “leave it.” If you have a cat, make sure the cat’s claws are neatly trimmed or covered with specialized nail covers or caps.
Before you head home, you might want to have someone bring an item of clothing or a blanket with the baby’s scent on it to get them used to it.
It’s okay for a pet to be curious about the baby, but set clear boundaries. Don’t allow your dog or cat to get too close at first when you bring baby home. Have someone there to make sure you and your baby are safe from an overly-curious pet. Dogs should ideally be on a leash controlled by someone other than the mother during the first introduction.
Reward calm, good behavior with praise and affection. You may want to keep certain areas off-limits to your pet, such as a baby room. Keep soiled diapers securely contained so your pet can’t get into it. You can also set up a pet-only area where baby won’t be allowed.
If you think you may have a problem with your pet, consult a professional trainer or behaviorist to assist you in creating a safe and happy environment for your newly expanded family unit.