Introducing your new baby to your pet

For many families, their pet is considered their fur child or first baby. And although the intentions are for them to always come first, life happens and it rarely happens. Having a baby, whether it is the first, second or third, brings a lot of change to the household and unfortunately, pets don’t always respond well to change.

Preparation should start months before the arrival of the baby. This will not only ease your pet into change but will also reduce the development of anxiety or destructive behaviours.

THE PREPARATION

  • Block off the baby’s nursery or your bedroom to your pet with baby gates
  • Set up the bassinet, cot and highchair
  • Place the nappy bin away from the pet’s sleeping or eating area
  • Introduce the pet to the smell of nappies, baby oils and creams
  • Invite friends over with babies and toddlers
  • Play soundtracks of baby’s crying and give your pet a favourite toy or treat – start off with low level and short and slowly increase the volume and duration
  • Use a doll to practice speaking in a baby voice so the pet recognises your new voices
  • Address any fear aggression with a veterinary behaviour professional
  • Train your pet to “sit”, “stay”, “come” and “go to its bed/mat”
  • Talk to your GP about your cat, the potential of toxoplasmosis and safety precautions
  • Ensure all pets are on appropriate parasite control such as intestinal worms and fleas
  • Stock up on pet dental chews, pig ears and rawhide bones as they make great treats
  • Place some extra hiding spaces around the house for your cats such as a box, cupboard or a new shelf high up as this will bring added comfort to your cat

THE INTRODUCTION

  • Introduce a pre-warn onesie or singlet to the pet before the actual bub – hours or days before
  • Never leave your child alone with a pet – your cat may seek out the warmth of your baby and curl up next to it!
  • When it’s all too much, placing your dog behind a baby gate and giving it a treat or chew toy will allow you to focus on you and the baby.
  • When the baby’s crying, give your pet a favourite toy or treat
  • For anxious pets, using pheromone products such as DAP for dogs or Feliway for cats, as it will help reduce anxiety

Try to keep to a strict routine for your pet for feeding time, walks and sleep. Pets do better with structure. Getting creative with quality time such as a pet massage or playing fetch while breastfeeding will do wonders in improving your pet’s mood.