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Friday, May 13, 2011

Adjusting Pets to New Baby

From time to time I enjoy sharing with you articles that I come across that relate to topics on parenting. I also like to have them here as an easy reference point for myself in the future :) A few days ago I saw that Ashley had posted on Facebook some concerns about bringing home her new baby (soon!!!) and how her cat will handle it. My #1 worry when I was pregnant was how in the heck I'd figure out how to breastfeed. #2 was how our dogs would adjust to the baby. It's a concern for ALL new parents who have pets! Zach and I took many steps to help prepare our animals and the article I found (in Parents magazine the May 2011 issue) discusses all the things we did and will need to do again before Blizten arrives! Hope this will be helpful to Ashley and to any other expectant mothers with pets :)

Steps to take before baby arrives:
  1. Schedule a checkup: make sure the pets are up-to-date on all shots and vaccines and are in good health. It's also a good idea to have them spayed or neutered as it helps them be more calm and less likely to bite.
  2. Play pretend: Get your pets used to the idea of having a baby in the house by using a baby doll (I actually did this!) as it helps them adjust to seeing you with a baby.
  3. Make changes now: It you won't want your pet sleeping in your bed or jumping on the furniture then establish these boundaries asap. Don't introduce new rules when the baby comes in the picture or your pet may resent him or her.
  4. Set up the gear: Put your baby's things in place a few weeks in advance so your pet can become accustomed to the new items and the sounds they make.
  5. Offer some space: Find a spot that can be just for your pet (our dogs have crates as well as beds in the living room) and put their favorite things there for them. (We also bought lots of new toys and treats to give them when Kye arrived)
Sadie (who I've had since I was 16)
Bringing Home Baby
  1. Welcome your pets first. say hello to your pets without the baby present. After the pets have calmed down, have your partner present your baby. I had Zach wait in the garage with Kye and I went in on my own and cuddled with the dogs (and cat) before having Zach bring Kye in. The animals are more attached to (and protective of) me so I thought it was important that I be the one to say hello.
  2. Start off small. For the initial intro you may want your dog on a leash (we didn't do this, but I would have if we had a big dog) in a sit/stay position and reward with petting or praise. Gradually your dog and baby can be brought closer together. The same holds true for cats. Hold your baby near your pet and caress and talk soothingly to the animal. We totally didn't do this at all. We let the dogs sniff all over Kye and lick him etc. We were cautious, but I didn't want them to fear him either ya know?
  3. Don't exclude your pet. It's very common for pets to act up because they get much less attention after the baby arrives. It's important to remember to include your pet as much as possible when you're around your child.
Levi (who Zach and I got a couple months after we got married)
A decision we made as soon as we set up the nursery was to have a closed-door policy. That room was off limits to animals unless we were in there. I was SO nervous about the cat as cats can easily suffocate babies in their sleep so when Kye was sleeping in our room we kept the cat out. It was tough to do b/c he was used to sleeping with us but it was worth it to make sure Kye was safe (and we could actually sleep!). It was much easier once Kye transitioned to his crib in his room as we just kept the door shut at night and naps and Zeke was allowed back in our room.

Zeke (who I found as a stray kitten outside Zach's rental house in college)
Overall, our pets all did very well with Kye. I knew Sadie and Zeke would be fine but I worried about Levi. Being a chihuahua he's SO protective of me and I thought he may resent the baby, but overall he's done fine. Right from the beginning we taught Kye to be "sweet and gentle" when around the pets and he's always very good with them. I think it's a two way thing...you have to train your pets to be good around your children, but you also have to train your children to be good around your pets! I'm still a little nervous about Blizten entering the picture as I know the pets (especially Levi) will get even less attention and I'll be less able to keep a close eye on them when they are around Kye.

When we first brought Kye home, the introduction
Even if you trust your pet, you should NEVER leave them alone with your child. Kye is two and I still don't like for him to be too close to Levi when I'm not around. Even the other pets for that matter. You never know when a dog may bite. Both Sadie and Levi have nipped at Kye. Zeke has also scratched him before. In all instances, Kye got in trouble as he was the one provoking it, but I still am very careful as I don't want anything serious to occur!

first family picture (minus Zeke!)
I know most of my friends quit loving their pets as much once kids entered the picture, and it really is just what happens. I LOVE Sadie, Levi, and Zeke but I love Kye so, so much more and at this stage in life pets aren't that fun for me. I think as Kye gets older pets will become more fun again but with young babies and toddlers they are pretty annoying! However, they do provide endless, free, entertainment for young ones and Kye has ADORED them from early on. I guess the joy of pets for a parent is gone (at least for a little while...) but the joy of pets for a child starts from birth!

3 comments:

  1. I cannot believe the last paragraph or the comments! People are treating abandoning their pets (not that the article suggested this) as though it is okay? Like "oh well, I love this creature more now"? Tough shit! Love for your child does not permit the abandonment of a pet. And to call them annoying or unwanted also blows my mind. You changed their life and you get annoyed by them? Think of what a transition that is for them. I cannot respect anyone who deems this kind of thought process as acceptable.

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  2. The last paragraph made me sick! If you stop loving your pet just because you have a child then you never loved them in the first place! I just had a baby and I still love my dogs exactly the same way as I did before! Having a child doesn't mean that it's the only thing you can love! It's a shame that there are idiots out there who think like this about their pets.

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  3. Great article but seriously- that last paragraph...awful.

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Reading your comments makes my day!



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