Our pets are our sidekicks, our pride and joy, and for some, they’re our first babies.
Now your fur baby is getting a new brother or sister! So just like you would with any member of the family, it’s best to prepare them, so that they don’t feel left out, and act out. Here are some steps to take to ensure that all goes well when bringing a new baby home to your dog or cat:
1. Be sure that your furry friend is in a good routine during your pregnancy. Resolve any concerns like a dog that jumps you at the door, or barks at the wind, or a cat that misses the litter box, now. The little things that seem cute today will be pretty challenging at 9 months pregnant, or once you’re juggling a baby.
2. Find ways to simulate some changes the new baby will bring.
Bring a tape of baby crying and play it for your cat if they’re easily startled, or play with the cat in the baby’s nursery so that they can acclimate to the new room.
Babysit for a friend’s child, so that your pet can get used to you giving attention to a small human.
3. Don’t forget about them during labor and the hospital stay! (And since labor is a unpredictable, this preparation is best made by 38 weeks at the latest.) Use a pet-sitter/ dog-walker that your pet has met in advance, and have any supplies, food and and treats easily found. Have someone (other than the person giving birth of course) call and check in to be sure that everything is taken care of at home.
4. While at the hospital, have something with the baby’s smell (a blanket, or the first onesie) set aside and brought home to your pet. This reduces one more unknown for them, and that’s good for everyone. Let them have their first whiff of new baby smell before it’s on an infant.
5. Once the baby comes home, you can include the pet in the new baby routines. Allowing them to sniff the new baby, offering treats during feeding when they are calm and well behaved, and talking to the dog when it’s nearby during diaper changes or tummy time can all help.
6. Try to keep their routine as much as possible. A pet will sense, but not fully understand the change. Dogs may need more exercise, or they’ll start finding destructive ways to let energy out. And a cat should be taught to avoid the baby’s sleeping area and may need to be distracted initially while you care for the newborn.
Important notes of caution:
Once baby is a bit older, they may even be fast friends. Taking a few steps to bring the family together should make things go smoothly.