Introducing an Infant to Your Existing Pets
Kids, cats and dogs are famous for tugging at our heartstrings in our homes. They’re seen in videos and posts all over the internet being uber adorable. But sometimes getting these four-legged critters and small children together for the first time in the real world doesn’t come without some challenge. An existing dog or cat might not be overly thrilled when another (newer) bundle of joy arrives into their once solitary environment with their owners.
For argument’s sake, let’s look at some ways we can bring home a new baby without alienating our existing animal. One of the first recommendations many experts recommend is to bring something home from the hospital with the baby’s scent first, like a baby blanket or cloth. This will help to soften the blow once the infant arrives into the household.
Before The Big Day
Be sure to take your animal for a trip to the veterinarian to get a complete and comprehensive checkout before the baby arrives. Take them by the groomer to get their nails trimmed and filed if your vet doesn’t perform this service to help prevent accidents from casual contact.
When it comes to the nursery, this is often set up many weeks (or even months) in advance awaiting the big day, but be sure to slowly bring out all the equipment and accessories early, so that your animal can get used to their presence in the house. To prepare them for the new sounds of an infant, consider going to sites like YouTube and playing them videos of a baby laughing, crying and cooing in the background.
Training And Boundaries
If your animal isn’t already trained to stay off the furniture or jumps on people when they’re excited, it’s better to train them to stop this behavior before there’s a toddler running around with them. Associating playtime with an infant and new training techniques together, at the same time, may cause the animal to resent the youngster.
If your critter isn’t already crate trained, consider giving them their own, separate space that’s a “kid-free” zone where they can retreat and relax when necessary. Also consider areas where a pet may not be welcome. For example, while a dog might do well in the nursery, a nimble feline could jump into a crib or onto a changing table thinking nothing about this innocent activity.
Baby Steps (Pun Intended)
Remember that when their master or owners disappear while the baby is being delivered, pets may already be experiencing some anxiety over this temporary separation. When you do arrive back with your new family member, make sure you greet your animal in the same fashion you normally do when arriving at home.
You don’t necessarily need to make the introduction of pet to infant immediately either. Take some time for them to get used to the new sights, sounds and smells associated with this new arrival. When the time does come for them to meet and greet, take it slowly and have at least two adults present, just in case, one to care for the baby and the other to keep an eye on the pet.
Although some extra time, love and attention given to a pet after the infant arrives wouldn’t hurt, be sure you maintain their schedule. This includes all parts of their regular daily routine from feeding time to exercise, taking walks or trips to the dog park. If you have a cat and regularly play with them during a certain time of day, don’t forget this regularly scheduled playtime.
It’s unlikely there will be problems with this adjustment, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. With a little forethought, training and planning, this new bond between animal and infant will grow into a lifetime connection and friendship.
Hilary Smith has parlayed her love of technology and parenting into a freelance writing career. As a journalist, she specializes in covering the challenges of parenting in the digital age. She loves all things tech and hasn’t met a gadget that didn’t spark her interest. She also writes parental articles on things like this one, featured here. The Texas native currently resides in Chicago, IL and braves the winters with her two children, ages 4 and 7.