What can be more exciting than expecting a child? There are so many things to plan during those nine months — deciding on the décor for the baby’s room, selecting the right car seat, stroller, crib, and all the other baby accessories, and picking a name. If you also have a pet, it is important to consider how you will introduce your little bundle of joy in a non-stressful and positive way.
It is important to remember that pets can be very sensitive to their owners’ emotions, so the excitement you are feeling may reflect on him as well. With their acute sense of smell, they can also detect hormone changes, and although they may not understand what’s going to happen, they do know that something is up. The painting and prepping of the new room will certainly peak their interest and it’s a good idea to let them investigate it now, before the baby arrives and it is off-limits at certain times.
While you are still in the hospital, wrapping the infant in a receiving blanket and then bringing that home to offer to the pet may help the adjustment because the scent will be a little familiar. When you come home, your pet will certainly be excited to see you, so you may want to hand the baby to someone else when you walk in, especially if you have a large dog. With dogs, putting them on a leash and letting them investigate their new family member will help the adjustment. It may take a while for your pet to get used to the new routine. What may have previously been a quiet home, now runs round the clock with feedings every couple hours, people visiting, and dirty diapers (which, by the way, dogs seem to find delicious, so keep them secured in a diaper genie or other container). Cats tend to be put out by the whole thing, so keep an eye out to make sure they are still eating and drinking and using the litterbox.
Often, owners feel a little guilty about neglecting their pets because the new baby takes up so much of their time, so they tend to lavish attention when their son or daughter is down for a nap. Although it’s fine to do that, it is also important to give them attention when the baby is around so that they do not feel any resentment. My dogs and cats quickly figured out that when I was nursing, I was a captive audience, so they all would come over for petting with my free hand.
As a general rule, it is not a good idea to allow a small infant to be alone with a pet, no matter how docile that pet is. The high-pitched cries and jerky movements of babies can make dogs and cats stressed and they may not react like you would expect. Although there is not an ounce of truth to the old wive’s tale that cats can steal an infant’s breath (they’re probably just attracted to the warmth and smell of milk), pets should not be allowed to sleep with very young infants, just as they should not share their crib with pillows or heavy bedding.
If you have concerns about your pets getting along with children (or vice-versa), please call and we’d be happy to talk more in detail. And if you are expecting a child yourself — congratulations!