Introducing Your New Family Member to Your Pet
Nothing has the potential to turn your world upside down quite like a new baby! Those first few days and weeks with your new bundle of joy are filled with such a mixture of emotions – from elation and joy to overwhelm and exhaustion! But they are precious days, where all you really need to do is get to know your new baby. And that goes for the entire family, pets and all!
So, how do we go about making your baby’s transition into the family as smooth as possible when there are pets involved? Read on to discover our top three tips for introducing your new family member to your pet – hopefully they help!
It definitely makes sense to be as prepared as you can be before your baby’s birth, so that your pet can also get ready for the new arrival too. Make sure your pet is up to date with any vaccinations or boosters they might need and if you have any concerns over their health, book a vet’s appointment for a check up. With that out of the way, other things that you can do to prepare include:
- Installing nursery furniture and other larger baby items (such as the pram and other toys that make sounds etc.) and allowing your pet to become accustomed to them. This can help with the transition, as these items will already be familiar when your baby arrives.
- Establish rules over where your pets are allowed to sleep and play once the baby arrives. If being in the baby’s bedroom, or sleeping in your room will be a no-no once the grand home-coming takes place, then it’s better to get this rule going sooner rather than later.
- Be aware of your pet’s sensitivity to noise. Cats in particular can be very sensitive to new and loud sounds, so a baby’s cry may have the potential to cause distress. There are apps you can use to familiarise your pets with the sound of a baby’s cry which might help to get them accustomed in advance!
- Some parents swear by taking their dog for a walk with the pram before baby arrives. This helps them to get used to walking beside and pram, and allows you to establish expectations for the real thing. If you can get over feeling a little silly at first, this is a great way to get ready for all those lovely pram walks!
- Once baby is born, you could always take home one of their blankets for your pets to sniff – this helps them to become accustomed to their scent before they come home.
When you bring your baby home, try to stay calm and talk to your pet firmly and quietly. Your dog may want to jump up to greet the newest family member, so it might be a good idea to reward them with treats for staying still and quiet. Experts recommend greeting your pet first, without the baby, and to keep them separate for a few hours initially, while your pet gets used the baby being in the house.
When the time comes, keeping your dog on a lead and in a sitting position is a good idea. Keep the first meetings short and sweet and reward them for sitting still and staying calm. Make sure you supervise meetings very closely, and look for signs that your pet is unhappy or becoming over excited.
When it comes to cats, make sure that they don’t enter the nursery unless you’re there to supervise, put a stop to them climbing into the crib and keep them away from brightly coloured hanging toys such as mobiles as these are very attractive play things to cats!
Stick to the same routine as normal with your pets so that they continue to get the same attention as before the baby arrived. Try to keep everything as normal as possible.
Remember that your pet should never sleep with your baby; read more about safe sleep on the Lullaby Trust website here.
Beyond the early days
As your baby gets older and starts to crawl, you’ll need to baby-proof the house in more ways than you’d think:
- Make sure that your cat’s litter box is out of reach and covered up – do this slowly and in small increments, as your cat is a creature of habit and will need lots of time to get used to a new position in the house!
- Always store your pet’s food and toys out of reach.
- Clean your pet’s toys and bedding regularly.
- Avoid playing rough games with your dog while your baby is around – keep these activities for the park, or avoid them altogether.