Having a baby on the way is an exciting time for all involved and it’s important to feel well prepared for this new venture. While preparing everything you need for the arrival of your new baby, it’s also important to prepare your pets for this often overwhelming change to the household. Preparation should ideally start before the baby arrives so we’ve put together a list of ways that you can help your cat or dog adjust to this big change.
Before the baby arrives:
Make sure your pet knows the difference between toys and hands:
Babies are prone to flailing limbs and grabbing at tails. Make sure your pet knows that hands and limbs are out of bounds, and that it’s only their toys that they are allowed to mouth.
Introduce baby sounds:
Any new sounds will naturally intrigue your cat or dog. You can help make this a more natural occurrence by playing baby cries and gurgles in your house at a low volume, and then gradually increasing the sounds until your pet becomes accustomed to it.
Introduce new smells and items:
Both dogs and cats have a heightened sense of smell that they can rely on. New smells will be threatening to them, so it’s a good idea to cover your own skin in baby lotion and baby powder, so that your pet associates them with familiarity.
Introduce new routines:
Familiar routines are very important for a happy, well adjusted pet. With a baby on the way, your routines are about to become much more erratic. To help your pet get used to this, start to change their routine early on and help them adjust slowly.
Treat your pets for fleas and worms:
It’s important that your pets are healthy in time for when the baby arrives. Babies’ immune systems need time to develop, so make sure your pets aren’t adding anything unnecessarily harmful to the household.
Give your pets a quiet place to retreat to:
Finally, make sure your pet has somewhere they can retreat to if they need some quiet time. Put a pet bed in a quiet area of the house with their favourite toy or treat, to let them know they have a safe place to go.
When the baby has arrived:
Greet your dog first when you arrive home:
Dogs are particularly intelligent at reading their place in the pack. By greeting your dog first when you get home, you will help them to not feel in the baby’s shadow. This will help your dog understand they’re still an important part of the pack and family.
Reward your dog for calm behaviour:
Remember to reward your dog for greeting the baby calmly. Teach your pet that the baby is delicate and requires gentle, calm behaviour. The more you reward your pet for doing a good job, the more they will continue to repeat it.
Install comforting diffusers:
If your pet seems particularly stressed by your baby’s noises or presence, it can be a good idea to install comforting diffusers, such as Feliway to help them adjust.
Baby toys and pet toys have a lot of similarities, they are often made of the same materials and can even make similar squeak or rattle sounds. Encourage your pet to play with their own toys if they ever go for your baby’s toys, keep them separate to avoid mix-ups and keep them well cleaned too, just incase.
It’s also a good idea to stock up on toys that will keep them entertained for longer, such as Kongs stuffed with treats, or puzzles for them to solve.
These tips should help smoothen the introduction of a new and unfamiliar family member to the house.