Last week we focused on how to prepare your cat or dog with a routine long before your newborn arrives, but creating a smooth and safe transition when you actually bring your baby home is just as important. The time will come when your baby and your pet will meet, so here are some ideas about how to keep your baby safe without making your pet feel threatened.
Stay Positive: It's important to avoid creating a negative or panicky atmosphere whenever your pet comes near your baby. Stay positive and be sure not to punish your pet for natural curiosity. Alternatively, reward good behaviour so your pets understand how you expect them to act around your newborn.
Your Pet Is Not Your Babysitter: Never leave your pet and your baby together unattended. New sounds and smells will make your pet naturally curious around your baby. It's fine to let your little friend investigate from a safe distance and then reward them with loving cuddles and tasty treats for calm and gentle behaviour. However, don't hesitate to immediately act at the first sign of aggression or dominance. Approach an animal trainer or your vet for detailed advice on what to do in these situations.
Personal Space: Never let your pet nap in your baby's sleeping space, even if your baby is not in it. Cats look for warm, cozy spaces for their naps but you must make it clear that your baby's bed is not theirs. Encourage your pet to sleep elsewhere by providing them with comfortable and snug spots around your home, and reward them with cuddles to associate these areas with positive feelings.
Step By Step: Make introductions between your pet and your baby slowly. Start by carefully letting your pet investigate a piece of clothing with your baby's scent on it - don't give the clothing to your pet to play with. Make sure your furry friend understands that it belongs to you and should be respected.
Show Your Love: Set time aside for pet cuddles. Before your baby arrived, your pet was likely the centre of your world (or at least one of the centres), and moving forward, your pet will still need your attention. Don't let your pet feel abandoned - this could lead to attention-seeking behaviour and, in turn, a negative reaction to your baby. If you feel that time is an issue or that it's likely your pet will become jealous of sharing your time, ask another member of your family to build an affectionate relationship with your pet to fill the gap months before your due date.
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