A Mum’s Experience: Introducing Pets to a Baby

As far back as I can remember, I have always had pets. When I was a baby I had a cat and two dogs and to this day I still love and have animals. My little boy is 4 now and lives with 1 cat, 3 dogs and 20 chickens! When we finally brought our little boy home, I remember being full of nerves, worrying about how the fur babies were going to react, as it was their home for a long time before this new little bundle of loveliness arrived.

I think, if you are a new parent, dogs are always our main concern. Especially with all of the horrific stories on dog attacks in the news. But starting off small and even before the baby has arrived is definitely the best way to go about things.

The shift in routine will be what confuses your furry friend the most. As you may know already, having a new born will dramatically change your life, but not only yours, your pets too. Your dog will not understand why he is now having to share your attention and maybe his walks have become shorter.

With dogs, it is best to initiate changes whilst you are still pregnant. If your dog isn’t great with basic obedience, sign him up to a class. Things like jumping up when you come in could become a problem when you are heavily pregnant.

Many dogs have never been around children before. Little people are very unpredictable. Screaming, sudden movements and getting into dogs faces just to name a few! If you have any friends who are already mums or dads, ask them if you could go out for a walk one day with themselves and their children. Introduce your pooch to children gradually and your dog will soon get used to a child’s company.

Before your due date, make sure you have sorted out pet sitters and walkers for your fur babies. Make sure you have someone you can rely on to call at 3am if you go into labour but don’t forget to have backup too! Your pet may become anxious when you are in the hospital so make sure they are with someone they know fully and whom they can trust and that you have a stash of goodies ready to keep him occupied. Kong toys are highly recommended – they are rubber, indestructible toys that you fill with food which keep your dog focused on something productive.

When you leave the hospital to go home with your new baby, be prepared for lots of attention from your furries when you walk through that door! Your dog will, as always, be overjoyed to see you. Allow your partner to walk in with your baby whilst you give your pooch that much needed attention that he requires after not seeing you for so long! When everything has settled down, sit down with your baby and just let your dog or cat give them a little sniff to get used to that lovely new baby smell. It will take a good few weeks for pets to get used to all of the new changes happening in their family home. They may even end up being a little more naughty than usual, this however, is completely normal. Rather than telling him off for jumping up at visiting relatives, remind him of the new chew toy he has – redirect the behaviour. Remember to include your dog in baby related activities – such as letting him sit close to you whilst you change a nappy.

A few things you can do to make sure you all have a peaceful and easy a life as can be are:

  • Install some stair/safety gates to designate some off-limits rooms for your pets such as the baby’s bedroom.
  • Stock up on new dog toys so your pooch doesn’t destroy the baby things!
  • Avoid food fights – when your child is mobile, they are going to want to explore anything they possibly can so it is best to put your dog food bowls up and away as some pooches can get territorial.
  • Teach your little one to be gentle when it comes to stroking and caring for your pet, no pulling on fur and tails!
  • And most importantly, NEVER leave your child alone with your pet. No matter how much you trust your furry friend, and as obvious as this may seem, your infant could unexpectedly irritate your pet. Also, always look for pacing or unusual eye contact. This could be a sign that your pet isn’t comfortable with your baby.

Some other guidelines for a safe and healthy relationship between your pet and child include the following:

  • Take your pet for an all-round check up with the vet – a healthy pet is a safer one.
  • Don’t assume that you can ignore normal safety precautions. Just because your pet is a breed that is ‘good with children’ doesn’t mean that the precautions can be ignored.
  • Don’t allow your baby and your pet to sleep in the same room unattended.
  • Don’t try to force a relationship between your pet and your baby. If they want to ignore each other that is absolutely fine.

It is a similar situation when it comes to cats. Try to get your cats used to baby smells and objects. A cat’s primary sense is smell so this can be a very threatening time for them. So introducing different smells early can be very beneficial to your cat. Again, feed your cat in an area in which your child can’t reach. Remember to have a think about whether you want your cat excluded from certain areas of the house and whether he has any behavioural issues that need addressing. Remember to never allow your cat to sleep where the baby sleeps.

Preparation is key! A happy, relaxed and prepared home with no tension or stress should bring no problems at all with your fur and furless babies! My little boy is now completely obsessed with animals. If anything, he has to be because I am a major animal lover myself. There are so many benefits of bringing children up with pets and these include:

  • Unconditional love – pets bring this as you know and it is more than likely that your babies will become the best of friends.
  • Pets can teach empathy, confidence and responsibility – caring for a pet that is dependant teaches this.
  • Animals can help to socialise children and increase verbal skills.

Pets, and animals in general, can be very therapeutic for children and us adults too!

 

by Kayleigh Duncan

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