Babies and Pets
Babies and pets require some preparation in order for the combination to work well.
A large number of pets are taken to the shelters when they're family members find out that they are expecting a child. It is very sad for the pet and for the family to relinquish a favored family member because a new arrival is expected. In most cases it is not necessary to give your pet away just because you are expecting a baby.
With a little effort and patience the transition can be made and all members of the family can remain intact.
One of the first things you, as your pet's care giver has to remember is, your pet has been "your baby" for a good while and has enjoyed all of your attention. The new baby is certainly going to diminish the amount of time you have to give your cat or dog.
So what do you do?
Start the "weaning" process as soon as you are aware that there is going to be a new arrival. Cats and dogs thrive on routine. Routine is what makes their world go round and it is up to you to gradually change the routine to accommodate the new routine you will have with the baby. Your pet needs and thrives on your attention, but it does not need it 24/7. Gradually reduce the amount of time you spend pampering your pet. I am not saying stop giving your cat or dog, pets, pats and time; I am saying "tone" it down a little.
A great way to give your pet attention without having to stop what you are doing is to talk to your cat or dog. Our pets love the sound of our voices and if you repeat your pet's name and just talk about what you are doing, you pet will feel it is getting the attention it wants.
Sounds silly, does not it?
Just think about it for a minute, you can talk to your pet while changing the baby, feeding the baby, bathing the baby, rocking the baby and just plain holding the baby. You can do all those things and not have to stop to pet or pat, and your pet will feel satisfied. It will not hurt to toss your dog a treat or two during the whole process and that will add more pleasure to the experience.
The secret here is to plan ahead. Cats and dogs rely on their sense of smell and their hearing. So, during that 9-month waiting period, you are going to give their noses and ears some new smells and sounds to hear.
Babies smell and look different then grownups, they do not smell like dogs or cats, they smell like babies. The plan here is you are going to invest in some baby oil and baby powder, which you will from time to time rub on your hands and let your pet smell them. It would not hurt to rub some on towel and put the towel within reach of your dog or cat's nose. Do not, however, allow your dog to drag it around. That's a "no, no." All you want to do it make your pet aware of the smell.
Having a baby means "new" furniture. Whether you are buying new or getting furniture from family or friends, start bringing it in. Allow your pet to smell it and get used to its presence. All the while this is happening talk to your pet about the "baby."
There are tapes available of baby sounds, crying, gooing and all the other sounds, babies make, buy or borrow one, so your "kids" get used to the sounds babies make.
If your pet is a dog, a good idea is to buy or borrow a fairly life sized doll. Dress it in some baby clothes, carry it around the house, talk to it and your dog, go through all the motions you would be going through if it were your new baby.
I would start doing this as your time is getting nearer as it will get your pet used to the new routine. If you do not feel silly, try taking your "baby" out in the carriage or stroller and having your dog walk with you.
What we are trying to avoid here is jealousy. Some dogs are possessive and will get jealous. If you while you are awaiting the arrival of your baby, take the time and have the patience to go through all these motions, your dog will be used to having the baby around, and it will not be so threatening to him / her.
Here are a few more things to consider if your pet is a dog:
Make certain that you provide some "one on one" time for just you and your pet. Remember this was the baby for a good while before the "real baby" came along.
Dogs and cats are creatures of routine. If you are gong to change the place where they eat, sleep or have their toys, DO IT ahead of time. Do not wait until a few days before you are to give birth.
If your dog has not been obedience trained, now is the time to go to obedience school. You will be so glad you did. You need your dog to obey your commands.
Expose your dog to as many babies and / or toddlers as you can. Always keep a leash on your dog when it encounters the little ones. This way you have control inside the house or outside the house. Be certain to give your dog praise and treats when he / she behaves well around a child.
Do not lose your patience with your dog if he / she does not seem too happy around children. Keep calm, do not yell or scream at your dog. By keeping calm, giving treats and praise, you can try again and eventually, your dog will realize babies are okay. Babies do not look like "big humans" and your dog may be frightened of them.
Let the dog be in your baby's room with you, give it a special place to sit or lie down (this is where obedience school fits in) and expect him / her to stay there.
If at all possible before you bring the baby home, have someone bring a blanket, hat, towel or anything else that has the baby's scent on it for the dog to smell.
When you are coming home with the baby have someone else carry the little one in and you give your dog your full attention. It is important that you greet your dog just as you normally would if you left the house and came home.
Let your dog smell the baby, if he / she barks and starts to carry on have someone take the dog and put it either in its crate or in another room to calm down. Above all do not let anyone yell, hit or scream at the dog. BE CALM and give the dog another try in a little while.
This is a new member of the pack; the baby is an extremely new concept for the dog to acknowledge. The baby looks like nothing your dog has seen in the household before. Keep in mind your dog is a dog and not a person that understands English or babies.
Get a large amount of treats to have on hand, as it is necessary to make a big fuss every time your dog behaves appropriately toward the baby. Keep a leash on the dog in the house; let him / her drag it around. The leash gives you control.
Do not exclude your dog from the family and the baby. Do not put an "inside 'dog outside or in another room just because you have the baby. It is important for the dog and baby to form a bond and a bond will never form if you treat the dog as a second class citizen and banish it away.
NEVER and I mean NEVER leave the dog and your baby alone together. No matter how good the dog is with the baby. You will never know what motion or sound the baby makes that might excite the dog and it may attack.
Any dog attack on a child that you read about in the paper will have these words, "the child was on a swing or playing" alone "in the yard with the dog," we just do not know what happened. Believe it or not, it was not the dog's fault; it was the parents or the caregivers.
You will never know what provokes the attack, but most likely the child did something innocently that upset the dog. You are the adult and the one with the intelligence use it.
The preparation for the baby when you have a cat is very similar to that of a dog. If your cat is an "indoors only" kitty it will take some time and patience, indoor / outdoor cats other than being curious have a life of their own.
This does not mean you should suddenly put kitty outside because of the baby, especially if the cat is "declawed."
Cats live in a smell and hearing world just like dogs, only I think smell is more important to cats. So it is up to you to do the baby powder and baby oil routine on your hands? Play the sounds from the baby tape; only for cats start out softly and increase volume a little at a time.
Bring in the furniture and allow kitty to climb and smell it.
If possible bring in friends with babies and small children, more than likely kitty will run and hide, but give it a try. Make certain kitty has a place to escape to. Prepare a sanctuary for kitty before hand so the cat has had time to get used to it.
Put all the "old wives" tales of cats sucking out a baby's breath or laying on a baby to smother it out of your mind. I have lived a long time and never have I heard of a cat that did either of those things. Yes, a cat will get into the crib, but usually only after the baby has left it and the spot is "warm." Cats love warm spaces. Let kitty smell the baby things.
Keep a diaper pail tightly covered as female cats have an inborn instinct to clean up after their kittens and kitty may try to help you by helping to clean the diapers.
One helpful hint in helping keep kitty calm is spraying the baby gate; door and doorjamb to the baby's room with Feliway, a wonderful product that will help keep kitty calm. In fact I would spray the furniture and the stroller just as an added measure. Feliway can be purchased at pet stores and on the Internet.
If you are concerned about toxoplasmosis, which is a rare disease in the United States. HEAR THIS it can be avoided. True it can be found in the feces of cats. The cats can get it from infected raw meat, wild birds, mice or contaminated soil. If YOU were to get it, you would have to eat the cat's feces or put your fingers in your mouth after cleaning the litter box. You could also get it from eating and handling raw meat.
So what do your do?
Wear rubber or latex gloves when: gardening or cleaning the litter box. Avoid handling raw meat or eating uncooked meat. Wash all cutting boards and counters that may have come into contact with raw meat. Feed your cat a good commercial cat food and stop worrying.
If you practice cleanliness and feed kitty well, so that it will not go out hunting, all should be well.
If you have not had your cat or dog neutered or spayed this is the time to do it. Animals that have been neutered or spayed make better pets, will not have raging hormones and will behave better.
The truth is, if you are calm, take necessary precautions, and treat your pets, as members of the family all should be well.
This may all sound like a great deal of work, when one quick trip to the animal shelter would settle the matter, but is that what you really want to do?
All these things can be done within the 9 month time frame, slowly and with good results if you take your time, be patient and use common sense.
Good luck and enjoy your baby and your pet!