How To Prepare Your Pet For A New Baby

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Pets are like our children. We feed them, potty-train them, buy them toys, and give them all the love and attention they want.

So what happens when a little human is on the way? Chances are that they’ll notice something is changing, and perhaps you’re a bit paranoid about how they’ll react.

We’re going to go over how to prepare your pet for a new baby.

Ways To Prepare Your Pet For The New Arrival

Much like people, animals experience emotional responses to life-changing events. A new baby can trigger a range of strange behaviors in pets. 

However, now that baby is priority number one, you need to ensure their safety. All the while also making your pet feel like they still matter. Start preparing them at least a couple of months before the baby comes.

Start Training Your Dog Now

If they aren’t already, train your dog before the baby arrives. You can enroll your dog in obedience training, or learn to do it yourself—although we recommend the former. Having them trained by professionals will prevent them from potentially developing negative associations with you.

A trained dog will ensure that they don’t misbehave around the baby. For example, if they used to pounce around the house a lot or play aggressively, you can now make use of commands to stop them. It will prevent them from accidentally harming the baby.

Prepare Them For Baby Smells And Sounds

Both cats and dogs are sensitive to smells and sounds. There are ways you can subtly introduce new elements that a baby brings—their senses will adapt over time.

Start wearing the products you’ll be using on the baby, such as lotions and baby powder. You can even take home one of their blankets or onesies from the hospital after they’re born and let your pet smell it.

Crying and screaming can be very upsetting for animals with delicate hearing, so loud noises are something they’ll have to get used to. Download an audio file of baby sounds and start playing it a few times a day at a low level—make sure your pets are around to hear it. Gradually increase the decibels to a realistic volume.

baby and dog

Take Them To The Vet

Make sure that your pets are up to date on vaccines (especially rabies shots) and are free of fleas, ticks, and worms. Enquire about non-toxic treatments that are safe to use around the house and the baby.

This would also be a good time to take precautions against toxoplasmosis in cats. It’s a rare infectious disease that’s transmitted through infected soil or feces—indoor cats rarely get infected. It can cause complications or even death to a growing fetus. 

Setting Up

Set up the crib and put all the baby things in place. Perhaps do it gradually so that your pet will become used to additions. 

Offer them their own space. Find a spot away from the nursery and other areas that the baby will frequent, and turn it into a pet area. Put their bed, toys, and food in this space and get them used to spending their time there. 

Spend Quality Time With Them

You don’t need to dedicate all of your free time to tend to your pets; in fact, it’s probably a good idea to get them used to your absence. So make the time that you do spend with them special. 

Take them on walks, or a car drive (if that’s what they like), play with them, buy them their favorite treats, and take them to the parlor. My doggos particularly love being pampered. They like showing off their new cut, and the ribbons on their heads are absolutely adorable!

This will also be a good time to get their nails trimmed, just in case they do something rash or unexpected.

Something I’ve been doing for years—before and after my children were born—is making scrapbooks with pictures of our pets. They might not understand what it is, but they can sense how much you cherish them, plus now I have all these beautiful albums.

After The Baby Is Born

No matter how well trained an animal is, they can still be unpredictable. The best you can do is prepare them, and take precautions after the baby is born.

Introduce Them To The Baby

When you come back from the hospital, greet your pets with the baby out of sight. Once inside the house, keep them separated for a few hours. Right now, your priority is to take care of your baby and have them get used to their surroundings.

Granted your pets will sense that there is someone else, and they’ll probably get curious. Start by giving them attention, wait for them to calm down, then present the little one.

Keep them on a leash at first, and allow them to get close enough to smell the baby. If the baby gets uncomfortable, don’t try to force it. While keeping your pets at a distance for a couple of days, gradually increase the contact. Always supervise when they’re in the same room, even as your child grows older.

baby and dog

Limit Their Access To The Nursery

Install a baby gate or a screen door in the nursery entrance. It will keep the dog out, yet still allow them to observe what’s happening inside. Cats, however, might be able to jump over a gate, depending on how high it is. 

If you have a cat, it may be best to keep the door and lower windows closed. No matter how gentle they are, cats can seriously injure a baby by thinking they’re playing, or even suffocate them by sleeping on top of them.

You can also install cameras in the nursery to make sure that your pets don’t slip in while you’re not around. 

Let Them Be Around Other Babies

Invite over other parents. Not only will your baby be able to make friends, but your pets will get pretty used to being around infants. Monitor them closely, though.

You can also do this before the baby is born. That way you can assess how they’ll react. 

Include Them Whenever Possible

Felines are very jealous animals. And even though you won’t be able to spend as much time with them anymore, you can still give them the impression that they’re number one. For example, make a big deal of seeking them out whenever you come home or have some free time.

Something I’ve found to be incredibly helpful for cats is a laser pointer. It allows you to play with them while tending to your baby—all you need to do is point it away from you and flick your wrist.

Dogs are a lot more willing to receive and give love in fluctuating quantities, and they’re more capable of learning and adapting—especially with training. 

Hygiene And Allergies

You must wash your hands every time after you touch your pets. Keep the surfaces, floors, sofas, pillows, and duvets clean as well.

Pay attention to any physical reactions your baby may have—they might be allergic to cats or dogs. There are multiple methods to reduce allergies, including air purifiers, allergy medications, or simply not allowing your pets in specific areas.

Is Your Pet Prepared For A New Baby?

Domestic animals are very similar to children in their ability to learn and adapt. If you follow the above guide on how to prepare your pet for a new baby, chances are that they’ll come around just fine.

You’ve probably been a pet owner for a while, so taking care of them is second nature. With a new baby, it’s only a matter of fitting everything into your schedule.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.