Pregnant and Have Pets? Tips on how to introduce a new addition!

This topic is near and dear to my heart. For those of you that don’t know me… I am a doula, wife, and pet parent of 4! We have two dogs, Mitzy- a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Molly- a Cocker Spaniel. We also recently adopted two sweet black cats, Bugatti Bagheera (Yes! from the Jungle Book!) and Coco Chanel (BB and CC- ya like that? guess we are ready for a Deedee? ha ha).

I hear a lot of concerns from new parents about how they are going to coexist with their pets AND their new addition. Worries about if the whole family will get along- babies with fur and without. This is absolutely a valid concern and something to think about while pregnant and preparing for baby’s arrival. Postpartum doulas deal with this in home regularly! Just another one of our many talents from our massive bag of tricks.

Don’t give up before you get started. I hear all too often of pet parents thinking of rehoming an animal due to fears of how the animal will react to a new baby in the home. Talk to your veterinarian, an experienced pet trainer, and do your research. Believe it or not, with a little time and effort, most animals adapt beautifully to their new brother or sister. If you are having trouble or have questions, be sure to reach out to your doula who can likely provide local recommendations for trainers and boarding/pet sitters!

A few tips whether it is a dog or a cat:

1) Get all annual check-ups done. Last thing you wanna worry about with a new baby is running a pet to the vet!

2) Stock up on supplies! Food, Cat Litter, Heartworm and Flea Meds, and any other medications your pet may need. Get at least a 6-month supply if you can!

3) Get your dog or cat groomed if you regularly do so before 37 weeks or so. Nail trims included. Another thing you don’t want to deal with when you bring baby home.

4) Arrange for a pet-sitter or boarding for when you go to the hospital. Have this info readily available for your birth team.

5) Write a feeding/medication/walking/litter box schedule down once you hit your 3rd trimester. Keep this info with the information from #4 above.

Here are some tips on introducing a new baby to your existing “fur babies” at home!

Cats:

Basic Obedience Training and a “safe zone” for your cats is critical before baby arrives.

  • It's commonly known that expecting mothers need to avoid the cat litter box as the feces can be dangerous, particularly if it's carrying a parasite called toxoplasma gondii, which can result in toxoplasmosis. While this disease does not pose a serious threat to adults because of their established immunity, children who are born with it or contract it as infants can suffer greatly, including hearing loss, mental retardation and blindness. Cat owners must continue to take precautions once the baby is born - always wear gloves when changing the litter, wash hands thoroughly and, of course, always keep your baby away from the cat box.

  • Due to the above, keep all cats indoors to ensure no NEW infection happens from neighborhood cats.

  • If the litter box has been kept in the soon-to-be nursery, begin several months ahead of time to move it a few inches a day to its new location.

  • Is dad gonna be taking care of your feline child once baby gets home? Any cat care routines that will be shifted from a parent after the baby arrives should actually be switched one to two months before the birth. This gives the cat more time to adjust to a new caregiver.

  • When you first arrive home from the hospital, peacefully greet your cat in a quiet room without interruption.

  • Place a used receiving blanket or piece of infant-wear in a quiet area where the cat can investigate it.

  • Don’t be afraid to keep your cat in another room for a while- some cats take a while to adjust. Just like when introducing a new cat to the home, the existing cat may need a "safe zone” for a while- that is OK! Gradually introduce the cat to your new little one.

Dogs:

Get your dog ready before the baby comes home. This includes basic obedience training to make sure your dog does not jump; understands sit, down and stay; and develops a solid recall so he comes to you when you call.

  • Make gradual changes to your dog’s routines —such as a change in where the dog sleeps or when he gets walked —before the baby comes home, so that the dog will not associate the changes with the baby.

  • Lessen the amount of play and attention you give your dog two to three weeks before the baby comes home. You do not want to give all of that “last minute love” to your dog before you leave to welcome baby, only to have it stop when the baby comes home.

  • Play a tape recording of various baby sounds in your house for increasing lengths of time so your dog can adjust to the new sounds before you bring the baby home.

  • Acclimate your dog to baby smell, including lotion, powder, etc. Once the baby is born, bring an article of the baby’s clothing or a baby blanket home so the dog can get used to the infant’s scent. Doula tip- ask for extra hats and receiving blankets at the hospital- bring a gallon size ziplock bag with you in your “go bag.” After baby wears the hat the first day and is swaddled in the first blanket- put it in the bag and bring it home for your dog to smell and start learning the baby’s scent.

  • When you arrive home with the newborn, if your dog isn’t staying elsewhere- first greet your dog alone so it doesn’t get excited and jump on the baby.

  • Allow your dog to adjust to the smell, sight and sound of the baby for a few days before introducing them in closer proximity.

  • After a few days, allow the dog to sniff the baby while controlled on a leash. Pet him and give him praise while he sniffs. Most dogs adapt easily, but always take precautions. Always allow the dog to approach you and the baby.

  • Once your dog is used to the baby’s smell, allow the dog to sniff the baby off leash.Your dog may react differently if the baby suddenly screams, cries or kicks and interpret these signs as an invitation to play or as a warning. When interacting with the dog and baby, keep the baby elevated and make sure an adult is between them at all times. Dog-adult-baby seating order.

  • Give your dog plenty of attention when the baby is around. You don’t want him to decide good things only happen when the baby isn’t around.

  • Don’t scold the dog for picking up the baby’s toys. You don’t want the smell of the baby being associated with anything negative. Simply replace the child’s toy with the dog’s toy.

  • Babies change quickly, and it can be difficult for the dog to adapt as quickly- especially dogs that have not been around children prior to this time.

  • Once your baby begins to crawl, make sure that he/she doesn’t pull on the dog’s tail or ears. Snapping and growling are natural canine behaviors when they are trying to communicate a warning. Even the most tolerant and sweetest dog has its limits! Supervise, Supervise, Supervise!

  • Never leave even the most trusted dog alone with a baby or small child!

  • Have “safety zones” for the dog. A safe zone is a private space – a crate, bed, or a gated laundry room, etc. where he or she can get away when the activity is too much for him or her. Children should not be allowed to “invade” the dog’s private space.

  • It is COMPLETELY OK to keep the dog out of the baby’s room with a gate, etc., especially if he is curious and attempts to jump on the crib or changing table. Baby deserves a safety zone too sometimes! ;)

Congratulations on your pregnancy! If you need recommendations or a doula in Mississippi, contact me today.

Leah

leah@doulainmississippi.com

More information on introducing pets to newborns:

https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-training/socialization/introduce-your-dog-to-your-baby

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/cats-and-babies

https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dogs-and-babies

https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/6-ways-prepare-cat-behavior-new-baby

http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/healthy-pets/family-pet-baby/

https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/new-baby-cat-safety#1