When Fur Baby Meets Human Baby
Before we have human children it’s not unusual to treat our pets as ‘fur babies’. Whether you have a cat, a dog, or both, they are part of our family naturally and have a special place in our hearts. But when human babies come along things often have to change, and it is not uncommon for our fur babies to get stressed, anxious and jealous. After all, they don’t understand why they are no longer your first priority. There are a few things you can do to reduce any negative impact the arrival of your human baby might have on those furry ones, and to keep your human baby safe.
It is important to start thinking about the changes you will need to make early on in your pregnancy. Ideally, by the time you are around 4 months pregnant you should be gradually introducing those changes. If your pet associates the changes in its life to the coming home of the baby it may set up a jealous reaction, so start slowly and early so your pet doesn’t make that connection.
For Dogs and Cats
There are a few things you might like to consider whether you have a dog or a cat:
- Animals have a much keener sense of smell than humans, and when baby comes home there will be all sorts of new smells – talcum powder, baby lotion, baby wipes. In the months before you give birth, rub some of these things on your legs while you are home so your pet can get used to them. When these unfamiliar smells blend with your familiar one, your pet will get used to them quickly.
- Babies can make a lot of noise, and if your dog or cat is unfamiliar with a crying baby it can create fear or anxiety. Try playing recordings of babies crying in the months leading up to your labour. As with all this advice, start slow – just a minute or two – and build up your pet’s resistance. Happy by-product – it will build up your resistance too!
- If you have friends with babies, ask them to bring them over and introduce them to your pets so they are familiar with the look of a baby, and all the paraphernalia that goes with them.
- If you feed your fur baby in the house, think about where that food (and the litter tray if you have a cat) is situated. It if is somewhere baby will be using, gradually move it until it is somewhere baby won’t be able to get to, and your pet will feel secure in the safety of their food.
- Think about who your dog is most attached to. If it is you, try to develop a deeper relationship between your dog and your partner or another family member who will be able to focus on the dog when baby comes home.
- Think about your routine – if you walk the dog twice a day, will this be sustainable once baby comes home? If not, and you decide you will have to drop down to once a day for a while at least, start your new routine now. Don’t suddenly go from two walks to one, but maybe only one walk every third day, then every second, until you feel your dog is OK with one.
- Does your dog sleep on the bed with you? Find an alternative to this early. Even if you don’t plan on co-sleeping with your baby, there will probably be times when the baby will end up in your bed – if only so you can get some sleep yourself. Having a dog in the bed with a baby is not ideal, especially if it is a big dog.
- Think about where your baby’s play area might be. Baby’s need ‘tummy time’ from very early on, so set up your ‘exclusion zone’ early so your dog knows where it is not supposed to go. Baby gates can be good for this. If that’s not possible think about a playpen for baby.
- If your fur baby is a jumper, think about some training, particularly if it is a big dog. The last thing you want is your baby to come to any unintended harm while you are holding them.
Cats can be little trickier than dogs. Not only are they less ‘trainable’ but they are able to get into places that dogs just can’t. This makes them harder to manage with a new baby.
- Probably the most important thing to bear in mind is that a cat should never have access to where your baby is going to sleep. Cats have a way of curling up where it is warm and comfortable, and if they decide that is beside your baby’s face it could have tragic consequences.
- Cats are very sensitive about smells, and new things coming into the house – like cots and prams – can cause them to feel they need to mark their territory. As soon as you introduce an item, run a clean cloth over your cat’s head, and then wipe it over the legs of the pram, cot, or change table. Putting their scent on it will let the cat know it is safe.
- You may like to invest in a cat pheromone diffuser. You can get them from any vet. This will disperse harmless cat pheromones into the air which keep kitty calm. It’s the cat world equivalent of a lavender candle!
- Make sure your cat has somewhere safe they can go to get away from baby once it starts moving. If you feed your cat in the laundry, can you install a cat-flap in the door? Your cat will feel much less stressed if it feels it has somewhere safe to hide.
Introducing your Babies
If you have had a hospital or birthing centre birth it is possible you have been away for a couple of days, and your pet will have missed you. Ask your partner or another family member to hold the baby while you greet your fur babies so that you can give them your undivided attention.
Once they have settled down after seeing you again, introduce baby. Try and do it on neutral territory – the front yard or porch is often good. Make sure both baby and pet are held securely, with dogs on a lead, and let your pet smell the baby. Give them lots of praise (and a treat) if they respond well, but don’t force it if they give baby a quick sniff and then turn away. Some will take a little more time to get used to the new addition than others.
As much as we love them, it is important to remember that our fur babies are animals. No matter how much you trust them, never leave them alone with your baby. All it takes is for baby to reach out and innocently pull an ear or tail and things could go horribly wrong. Stick to supervised visits until your baby is old enough to know how to touch your pets.
If you are pregnant and would like more information on how to manage the introduction of a baby into your life, or you have any questions about pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period, I would love to chat. Give me a call on 0422 258 771 or get in touch: