Is there a Baby coming soon? Congratulations!
With a new bundle of joy on the way, the “to do’s” might seem endless, but if you’ve already got a four-legged “baby” at home (commonly pet dog or cat), preparing for the transition is an important item to add to the list. This is especially important if your pet stays with the rest of the family inside the house.
Dogs and cats are particularly sensitive to any changes in routine and surroundings, including sights and smells, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. Know what to expect from your pet when you’re expecting – check out our tips before the big day arrives, and make sure keep your household remains a happy one!
Basic Obedience Training
Use the next nine months to address any obedience concerns, or even just to reaffirm the basics. What might have seemed like minor infractions before, such as jumping up on the couch or on guests, will be an even bigger No-No once the baby arrives. Best to nip any lagging behavioral issues in the bud now – and don’t be surprised if you have to make a return visit to the trainer down the road as well.
Veterinary visit for Medical Check-up
Take your dog or cat in for their medical exam before the baby arrives to make sure your pet is in top shape and has no dangerous parasites or bugs. These parasites may include but are not limited to ticks, mites, worms. You can also work on grooming their toenails to avoid any accidental scratches.
Set the Stage
Prepare your baby supplies in advance of his/her arrival to give your pet enough time to get used to the furniture, toys and other supplies. These may include baby cot, nursery (if you are having one), baby powder and diaper rash cream (kept out of reach, of course) etc. This will give your pet a head start on some of the new smells that the baby will bring.
Dress Rehearsal? Yes!
If you have friends or family members with infants, see how your pet reacts to their presence. Never allow your pet to show any signs of aggression, and heap on the positive reinforcement for any and all good behaviors around any “practice” babies.
Meet and Greet
Once baby is born, first have a family member or friend bring home something such as your infant’s blanket or beanie to familiarize your pet with his or her scent. For the initial face-to-face meeting, your pet will likely be most eager to see the new mommy first, so have the proud papa hold the baby during this reunion. This might also be a perfect opportunity to bring home a new toy for your pet, to further mark the special day in a positive way.
Be Careful with the Poop
It’s commonly known that expecting mothers need to avoid the cat litter box as the feces can be dangerous, particularly if it’s carrying a parasite called toxoplasma gondii, which can result in toxoplasmosis. While this disease does not pose a serious threat to adults because of their established immunity, children who are born with it or contract it as infants can suffer greatly, including hearing loss, mental retardation and blindness. Cat owners must continue to take precautions once the baby is born – always wear gloves when changing the litter, wash hands thoroughly and, of course, always keep your baby away from the cat box. Also make sure you dispose of diapers in a pet-proof container – otherwise they could easily become a new play toy for your pet and make them sick or, at the very least, create a big mess!
Private Pet Time
Once the baby is born, it’s particularly important to make time JUST for your pet every day, even if it’s only a 15-minute play break, belly rub or one-on-one walk, sans the stroller. This will help curb jealousy and bad behaviors that could come as a result. And remember above all, positive reinforcement goes a long way – praise your pet each and every time they exhibit good behavior with your baby (and on the flip side, correct any bad behaviors immediately). The repetition will catch on quickly, and condition your pet to recognize that minding its manners yields the most rewards!
This post was adapted from Animal Planet