So, you've received the news - you're going to have a baby (two-legged, not four)! As you race through myriad emotions, your beloved furry friend (yes, that one down there... staring up at you, bemused) starts to sense that change is on the way. What can be a magical time for you can be a tense time for your pets.
Before your newborn arrives, your cat or dog is the centre of attention - they're used to sitting on your lap and roaming into any room that takes their fancy, but all that will change when your baby comes home. So, start preparing for the desired harmony now, not after your darling newbie is already displacing your darling pet.
Behaviour Assessment: First and foremost, start assessing your pet's behaviour once you learn that your family will be expanding. If your pet has known aggression, nervousness or a tendency to lash out through fear, seek expert advice from an animal trainer and/or your vet - there are plenty of ways to work on your pet's behaviour so that it's safe for your newborn.
Never Assume: Never make the mistake of thinking you know your pet's temperament based solely on its breed. Any dog is capable of aggression in the same way that any dog can be a wonderful and loving companion for your family. If unsure, seek expert advice.
Routine Is Relaxing: Bringing your newborn home will undoubtedly throw routine out of the window - suddenly feeding, walking, grooming and cuddling times happen when they can rather than when they should, and this change can be unnerving for your pet (and you!). It's just as important to keep a routine for your pet as it is for your baby, so set a realistic routine (good luck with THAT!) before your baby arrives and try to keep it going through those initial crucial months in order to create a secure, comfortable and consistent atmosphere.
Set Boundaries: Before your baby arrives, be sure to set boundaries for your pet so there are no surprises down the line. It's important that your pet is respectful of anything that will belong to your baby, including the nursery and everything inside it. While it's important that your little friend obeys your wishes, enforce calmly and positively - negativity will only increase tensions now and when the baby arrives. So reinforce your message with treats and cuddles as a reward for good behaviour.
Nothing is foolproof, of course, but it really is possible to prepare a little for the arrival of your baby and the effect of this on your pet and you. Next week we look at how things go once baby is actually home!
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