Introducing a new baby to your pet

Just for a moment, imagine your pregnancy and delivery from your cat or dog’s point of view. His beloved owner gets sick a lot, gains weight, re-decorates one room of the house, then suddenly disappears for 1-2 days after hours of intense pain. Talk about a stressed out and confused animal! He has no idea what is happening! Our pets are extremely sensitive to the actions and emotions of the humans they live with. So what can be done to smooth this transition?

New sights: Prepare the nursery as early as possible, and give your pet a chance to explore the new furniture and surroundings. Decide when your pet will be allowed in the nursery and be consistent about these new routines. Many moms recommend installing a screen door on the nursery so that you can see and hear the baby, while keeping the family pets out of the room. Never let a cat sleep in the crib or next to an infant that cannot raise herself up and turn her head. Cats love to sleep near or on any warm body, and could cut off the baby’s breathing if the cat is right near her face.

New smells: Apply baby lotion and baby powder on yourself to get your pet accustomed to the new scents. If there is time between the delivery and the baby coming home, have a family member bring home a blanket with the baby's scent on it.

New sounds: Play children's TV shows that feature the cries of babies and toddlers, or invite a friend over with their new baby. Your pet may first be alarmed at the sounds coming out of this strange creature, but will soon come over to investigate.

Coming home: When you bring your baby home from the hospital, please be sure to hug your pet and make a fuss over him. The last time he saw you, you were doubled over in pain, and he is probably just relieved to see you are still alive. Like an older sibling, there might be some jealousy at first, urinating in inappropriate places, chewing or scratching on furniture, or not eating. He is trying to tell you something! He feels left out and ignored. Many animals end up at their local shelter within days of a new baby’s birth, but some love and attention can go a long way at remedying the situation.

Try to find a small amount of time each day to groom or pet him, or take him for a walk. Stick to his old schedule of feedings and walks, if possible, to give him a sense of security. There is no better companion during those late night feedings than a purring cat on the back of your chair or a dog snuggled close by. All he wants is to have a role in your family and a place in your heart.