Your pets have likely been your fur babies for a long time now, and the introduction of a real baby can make them feel anxious, stressed and insecure. They may find that they are suddenly no longer the center of your attention or that spaces that they once occupied – such as certain areas of the house or your bed – are now off-limits. These feelings of anxiety and insecurity can cause your pet to react negatively to your baby or to act out towards you in ways such as making a mess in the house, chewing shoes, or even nipping and growling.
Don’t wait until baby arrives to start helping your pet adjust to the expected changes. There are many ways that you can help get your pet ready for baby and ensure that your home remains a welcoming atmosphere for both your pet and your new baby:
Start With the Basics
Take your pet to the vet for a routine checkup to be sure that there are no underlying health conditions that need to be addressed. Even if there are no health issues, just having this routine health visit – which is often stressful for pets – before baby comes will mean that you are not adding to their stress later. If your pet is not spayed or neutered, this is the time to have the procedure. Pets who have been spayed or neutered are typically not as aggressive and will display fewer behavior problems.
You can also take this time to talk to your vet about advice for how to make the transition for your pets easier. He or she is bound to have some great ideas.
Address Problem Behavior Now
Does your cat scratch when she gets annoyed or frustrated? Does your dog nip when you get too close to his food bowl? These are the kinds of problems you should confront now, as they will only worsen once your pet is feeling threatened and anxious by change. Waiting until baby has arrived to scold your pets for these behaviors will also reinforce the idea for your pet that the baby equates to negativity: you no longer pay as much attention to your pet and now you are constantly scolding your pet. This will make it harder for your pet to feel good about your new baby.
Consider a training class even if your pet does not have behavior issues. It is better to help your dog or cat learn now not to jump or scratch so that they are well-learned in this behavior by the time baby arrives.
Lessen Your Impact
If the mother is the person who always walks and feeds the dogs, or if she is the person to whom the cat is the most attached, it can be even more stressful for these pets when the baby arrives and she is no longer as much of a presence in their daily lives. If this is the case, start getting them used to seeing more of the father or even another pet caretaker who will provide walks or grooming. They will slowly adjust to spending less time with one or both parents, and the shock will not be as great when baby arrives.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you have friends with babies or young children, invite them to your home so that your pets can become accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells of young children. If your friends aren’t too keen on the idea of letting their children be test subjects, you can use a baby doll. Carry it in your arms as you would a real baby and play a recording of baby sounds. You can also introduce baby gear such as swings or mobiles that make a lot of noise or flash lights so that your pet can get used to their presence. You can also sprinkle baby powder or oils on toys or your clothing so that they can become familiar with the smells of a baby. When you bring baby home, you can send a blanket ahead to allow your pets to smell it just before baby arrives.
While the arrival of a new baby can be exciting and joyous, it can also be stressful for both the new parents and your pets. By following some of these guidelines, you can mitigate that stress and help make baby’s homecoming a happy one!
Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and researcher for College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching international student loan programs as well as international student scholarships. Whenever she gets some free time, she enjoys watching a funny movie or curling up with a good book.