Bringing a new baby home can be a big surprise for any pets, but there are tricks you can employ to make things a little easier at the big introduction.
Linda DiProperzio just wrote an article for Parents Magazine on how to give baby and pet a successful introduction, and joined KIRO Radio’s It’s Raining Cats and Dogs to give some tips on how to arrange the meeting.
DiProperzio explains the work starts long before baby comes home. Animals are creatures of habit and she says any changes that need to be made around the house should be done ahead of time so the animal doesn’t associate the change with baby.
For example, if you are a dog owner who knows you’ll probably be cutting down on walks, start a few months before baby comes home so the animal doesn’t blame the new house guest.
Any behavior changes should also be considered. If you want pets to stop jumping up on furniture, or sleeping in your bed, make those changes well before the child comes home.
“You don’t want the pet to associate the baby with these changes because that is how resentment and jealously grows. So if you are going to change anything in the routine, you want to do that a few months in advance before you give birth,” says DiProperzio.
If you have an indoor cat, DiProperzio also says you should think about where you have the litter box and whether it will be safe for baby.
“You don’t want to put kitty litter in a place where a baby once they’re mobile will be able to get to easily.”
But she says you can’t just move it without notice, and instead should do a very slow transition to the new location.
“Before the baby arrives start moving the kitty litter in small increments like maybe two or three foot increments until you get it to where you want it to be. This way it’s very small changes for the cat. It’s not disrupting their routine really, and it’s done well before the baby comes into the picture.”
Another thing about cats, they’re very sensitive to sound. DiProperzio says some experts recommend buying a CD of a baby crying so cats can be prepared for the noise before the infant is in the house.
Scent is a big part of an animal introduction too. DiProperzio says pet owners should consider bringing home a baby blanket or piece of clothing the baby wore at the hospital to give the animal a head start on the welcome.
“You could put it in their little bed or the area where they hang out and just let them sniff it and get familiar with the baby’s scent.”
When the day comes to finally bring baby home, DiProperzio says mom has likely been gone for a few days and it can help smooth things over if she immediately greets the animal.
“The mom should greet the pet right away,” says DiProperzio. “She should come in and really greet the pet first before even presenting the baby to the pet.”
If you’re bringing a baby to a home with a dog, DiProperzio says it can help to keep the dog on a leash and let the dog smell the baby from a distance before bringing the baby close to the animal.
The introductions should be gradual, a little bit at first and then have baby and animal around for longer periods. After the pet has proven they can behave appropriately around baby, she says it may even be safe to let them in for a real sniff and lick. But DiProperzio stresses that pet and baby interaction should always be supervised, and you should never leave them in a room together alone.