Congratulations — you’re expecting a baby! If your family already includes a pet, you’ll need to help her adjust to the baby you’ll soon bring home. By following the tips below, you can ease your pet’s stress, help her welcome your new baby, and ensure that your pet stays where she belongs — with you and your growing family.
Introducing your pet and new baby
How will my pet react?
Remember, your dog or cat was your first “baby” and is used to being the center of your attention. So it’s understandable that she may experience something akin to sibling rivalry when you introduce a new member into your household. You can minimize this feeling by working with her before you bring home your baby. If your pet is particularly attached to the mother-to-be, another family member should develop a closer relationship with the animal. That way, the pet can still feel loved and provided for while mom is busy with the new baby.
How can I prepare my pet?
Below are several suggestions to make introducing your pet to your new baby safer and smoother for all. Be sure to carry out these changes months before the baby’s arrival to best prepare your pet.
Address any pet training and behavior problems. If your pet exhibits fear and anxiety, now is the time to get help from an animal behavior specialist.
If your pet’s behavior includes gentle nibbling, pouncing, or swatting at you and others, redirect that behavior to appropriate objects.
Encourage friends with infants to visit your home to accustom your pet to babies. Supervise all pet and infant interactions.
Accustom your pet to baby-related noises months before the baby is expected. For example, play recordings of a baby crying, turn on the mechanical infant swing, and use the rocking chair. Make these positive experiences for your pet by offering a treat or playtime.
To discourage your pet from jumping on the baby’s crib and changing table, apply double-stick tape to the furniture.
Use a baby doll to help your pet get used to the real thing. Carry around a swaddled baby doll, take the doll in the stroller when you walk your dog, and use the doll to get your pet used to routine baby activities, such as bathing and diaper changing.
Sprinkle baby powder or baby oil on your skin so your pet becomes familiar with the new smells.
Finally, plan ahead to make sure your pet gets proper care while you’re at the birthing center.
What do we do after baby is born?
When you return from the hospital, have someone else take the baby into another room while you give your pet a warm, but calm, welcome. After the initial greeting, you can bring your pet with you to sit next to the baby; reward your pet with treats for appropriate behavior. Remember, you want your pet to view associating with the baby as a positive experience. Try to maintain regular routines as much as possible to help your pet adjust. And be sure to spend one-on-one quality time with your pet each day—it may help relax you, too!
Protect your pet from winter’s woes
Winter is a season of bitter cold and numbing wetness. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) urges pet owners to take extra precautions this winter to ensure the safety of their companion animals. Help your pets remain happy and healthy during the colder months by following these simple guidelines.
Don’t leave dogs outdoors when the temperature drops. Most dogs, and all cats, are safer indoors, except when taken out for exercise. Short-coated dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater during walks.
No matter what the temperature, windchill can threaten a pet’s life.
A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If your dog is an outdoor dog, however, he/she must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.
Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy.
Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick and freeze to metal.
Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and small wildlife, who may crawl up under the hood.
To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car’s hood to scare them away before starting your engine.
The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet’s feet.
Wipe the feet with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.
Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a sweet taste that may attract animals and children.
Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach. Better yet, use antifreeze-coolant made with propylene glycol; if swallowed in small amounts, it will not hurt pets, wildlife, or your family.
Probably the best prescription for winter’s woes is to keep your dog or cat inside with you and your family. The happiest dogs are those who are taken out frequently for walks and exercise but kept inside the rest of the time.
Reprinted courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States. For full articles, visit www.hsus.org.