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Hello, Little One: Introducing Your Pet to a New Baby

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A baby meets her new puppy at an adoption event in DetroitThe past few months have been life-changing for me. My husband and I had our first baby. Plus, I recently returned back to PetSmart Charities after my maternity leave. My priorities have shifted and the bulk of my time away from work is spent with my daughter; she is the center of our family's universe.

Where does that leave our pets? We've been pretty lucky so far; our cockatiels have adjusted pretty well. Whenever we bring our daughter around to their area of the house, Lucky and Jasper aren't startled or afraid. In fact, they seem quite content with her: they whistle and sing.

But what about pets like dogs or cats? I did a little digging and found some great articles from the Humane Society of the United States, BabyCenter and the ASPCA that provide tips on how to introduce your new human baby to your fur babies.

A few highlights:

  • Keep in mind that your pet might sense some "sibling rivalry" when the new baby arrives. All of the articles I read suggest you prepare your pet early, in some cases as soon as pregnancy is confirmed.
  • Create a special area in your home just for your pet, similar to his or her own sanctuary. That way, your pet will have a place to go when he or she is overstimulated by the baby crying or commotion (or the many visitors your family will see in the first few weeks).
  • Hire a professional trainer or talk to your veterinarian about "baby readiness" classes for your dogs and/or cats. Consider enrolling your pet in a training class so that basic training skills are reinforced.
  • Prepare your dog or cat for changes in your daily routine. ASPCA's article advises pet parents to "resist the temptation to lavish [your pet] with extra attention the weeks before the baby's due date" because it will set the pet up for a bigger letdown when the baby actually arrives.
  • Ensure your pet is spayed or neutered. The Humane Society of the United States recommends this because sterilized pets are calmer and less likely to bite. As an added bonus, sterilized pets typically have fewer reproductive health issues.
  • Practice with a baby doll and use baby products on your own skin so that your pet gets used to the different smells and activities you'll encounter with your baby.

Experienced parents with children and fur babies: What has worked for you?

For more tips, read the full articles:

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