Hey Baby! Introducing pets to babies

Pet Care Article taken from The Biscuit magazine Dogs Cats Pets Posted Dec 1, 2020
Welcoming home a new baby is an exciting time in any family’s life, but with many couples today already having one fur-kid at home we’re here to help you make the all-important introductions and ensure a harmonious household.
Before bub arrives
Laying down some ground work before baby makes an appearance will make the transition easier for you and your pet. As you’re preparing the house, your pet will be exposed to a lot of strange new sights and smells, which will take some adjustment.  If you’re planning on keeping them out of the nursery it’s a good idea to start before the baby comes along. A baby gate will keep them (and their fur) out, while still letting them keep an eye on all of the exciting changes.

You can read more pet advice features like this in RSPCA’s Magazine, The Biscuit. 

Some diseases, like ringworm, are very contagious and easily carried from pet to human. Before bub enters the picture, it’s important to ensure your pet is healthy and fully covered for parasites. 

A baby will shake up any schedule, including your pets. If your dog is used to early morning runs, or your cat is accustomed to sleeping on your bed, you might want to make some changes to their routine in advance. Start these changes slowly, and keep them positive, like finding a great dog walker to manage those mornings, or treating kitty to a new bed to soften the shift to a new resting place. 

The sound of a baby’s cry is one many pets only hear after the arrival of their new sibling. There are free audio tracks available online, or you can purchase a CD, with baby sounds from cooing, to crying, to giggling, even screaming. Play from different rooms and at different points in their routine, slowly increasing the volume each day. Reward your pet each time, so they associate the sounds with good things. 

pregnancy and pets

If you have a dog or cat at home and are unsure if your pet likes kids, it's important to understand their behavioural needs and space when your little one arrives.

Before your newborn comes home, why not enrol your pooch in a refresher course at RSPCA School for Dogs? This can help your dog brush up on their basic skills like sitting for treats, going to their mat and not jumping up when bub arrives. Talk to the School for Dogs team for advice or find a class near you here.

Bringing baby home
Once bub arrives, it’s time to get your fur-kid used to their scent. Take a new blanket to the hospital to wrap baby in. The blanket will pick up their scent, which you can calmly present to your pet, coupled with plenty of rewards and praise. This blanket can now live near your pet’s regular resting spot, just not in their bedding.

When the time comes to bring mum and bub home from the hospital, it’s a good idea to let mum enter alone first. This lets your pet get out all of their sniffs and excitement before you bring in baby.

Get mum and baby comfortable before introductions are made. Let your pet meet the new addition at a safe distance, with the other parent either holding the pet, or on their leash. Keep the meeting short and positive, slowly extending contact over time. 

Remember, if you have a feline, they might be inclined to snuggle up to your bub for warmth or think their new cot is a new bed for them. Keep your cats away from your nursery and sleep time for your baby’s safety.

introducing your newborn to cats

Ensure you give your pet some ‘quality time’ to avoid competitive behaviour, allowing them to adjust to new changes and remember to ensure any interactions are fun and positive for both your pet and baby!

Have a space dedicated to your pet for them to retreat once your baby becomes mobile. Using dog crates and baby gates is an effective way of allowing your pet to freely move away from your bub when needed.

When you are busy with your newborn, encourage your pet to play with enrichment toys. This reinforces good behaviour when being directed to a certain area such as their mat.

introducing your baby to your dog

Above: RSPCA good doggo Buddy investigating his new sister.
Bringing baby home
Just because you’ve introduced a newborn doesn’t mean you have to lose your valued time with your pet. Get everybody included by taking walks together, or providing a treat to your pet while feeding bub. Your pet will adjust best if they understand their new expectations, so set boundaries early and maintain them. 

dinner time tips for newborns and pets

Above: Yes Buttons (Adopted RSPCA cat), we know you also enjoy watching cereal preparations.

Remember baby’s safety is always the number one priority, and never leave your pet alone with your baby, no matter how trusted they are. If your pet is struggling to adjust, talk to your vet about behaviour management options available during the transition period. 

Don’t forget that if you have more visitors to your home this will also affect your pets with increased foot traffic. Read more here about creating a safe space for your pet when guests arrive.

You might also like to learn more about how to introduce your dog to another dog here.

amy noonan

Amy Noonan
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