Image Credit: MjZ Photography via Flickr Creative Commons
If you’re pregnant and your family already includes a pet, you’ll need to help your first “baby” adjust to the precious new addition to your family. Following these tips will allow for a smoother, happier transition for the entire family.
Preparing your pet months before your baby comes home can help minimize potential issues. Getting your pet used to baby-related noises and taking steps to address any known training or behavior problems are some suggestions. For the most part, cats and dogs can be prepared for the arrival of a newborn the same way.
Making the Introductions
It’s recommended to bring an article of clothing the baby has worn (or another baby item such as a blanket) home from the hospital before the baby. This will allow your pet to get familiar with your baby’s scent.
Once you return from the hospital, here are some helpful ways to encourage a positive initial meeting:
- Greet Your Pet Alone
When you get home, have someone else take the baby into another room while you give your pet a loving, private welcome.
- Small Steps
Gradually bring your pet and baby closer together. Taking introductions slowly will allow you to introduce them in a safe way.
For the initial introduction, keep your dog on a leash and hold your cat. If your pet isn’t displaying any signs of aggression, it can remain close enough to smell the baby, but not close enough to bite or scratch.
- Be calm
You want your pet to have a positive association with your baby and alleviate any anxiety it may be experiencing. If your pet gets too close to the baby, stay calm and be firm without yelling. Also, don’t force your pet to get near the baby.
- Praise Appropriate Behavior
Be sure to use positive reinforcement whenever your pet displays good behavior around the baby. Offer plenty of praise with words and treats.
The Days Ahead
Include your pet in your daily routine with the baby as much as possible, giving him attention and affection when the baby is around. Stick with your pet’s regular routines, and carve out time to spend one-on-one quality time together each day, such as during baby’s naptime.
If your pet continues to feel loved and cared for, even as you care for the baby, he’ll be less likely to act up to gain attention.
Deal with Aggressive Behavior
Some pets will become jealous and display aggressive behavior toward a newborn. A few common signs of aggression are biting, growling, raised hair, hissing, scratching, pinned-back ears, a downward-pointing tail or withdrawn behavior.
Quickly address any unwanted behavior by your pet with a firm “no” and reward all positive reactions (such as backing off when told). Supervise all contact and never leave your pet and baby in the same room.
Does Your Pet Need to Go?
If your pet continues to display aggressive behavior toward your baby and you’re concerned for your baby’s safety, contact your veterinarian. Behavior issues can result from a medical issue but, if your vet rules this out and can’t help otherwise, get a recommendation for an animal behavior specialist.
After seeking professional help, if you’re still not 100% confident about your baby’s safety, finding another home for your pet may be necessary for the well being of your baby.
In most situations, your pet and baby should be able to live happily together, especially with proper training and supervision.
To set up an appointment, visit us online or call Contemporary Women’s Care today at (407) 478-6249 (OBGY) for our Winter Park location. For our Lake Nona location, call (407) 476-0200.