Tips on How to Introduce a New Baby to Your Fur-Babies
Hello everyone, and happy summer! I’m sorry if this post is coming to you a little late, but as many of you know we had a new addition to our family recently. My son Henry was born on January 25th. Time flies! I can’t believe it’s already been four months. We are all doing well, and Henry is happy, healthy, and growing so fast. Henry is our first (human) child, so needless to say it was a huge adjustment bringing him home. We are learning everyday, and while it’s been tough (we finally slept for 5 straight hours the other day!), it’s also been extremely rewarding.
But these changes haven’t only impacted Mom and Dad. A new baby has also meant an adjustment for our pets. We currently have three animals. My female cat Petunia, my male cat Percy, and my 2-year-old dog Hank. Poor Petunia. She has been with me since vet school, and since then has had to put up with me adding a kitten, a husband, a dog (the least favorite addition), and now a baby. Percy, the second addition, is the most affectionate cat I’ve ever met, and he has a strong attachment to me. He loves to be me near (or on) me at all times. And Hank is used to being the baby. Their personalities are all different, but for each of them we knew a new baby would be a big change. Luckily our animals have been around children before. They were all very gentle, even with toddlers picking them up, so we weren’t too worried about that aspect. I wanted to share a few tips I found while doing research about introducing babies to animals in case any of you are going through similar changes soon, especially with pets that may be a little more wary of kids or big changes.
1. Start making gradual changes to routines a few weeks prior to baby so that the changes aren’t associated with baby. You may want to gradually adjust how much time and attention you are giving them as well.
2. Introduce sounds and smells of baby before bringing it home. This could be playing a recording of baby sounds or starting to use baby lotion weeks before. I also heard of someone bringing home a blanket and clothes from the hospital to help their animals get used to their infant’s smell beforehand.
3. Consider having your dog take an obedience course if they haven’t already completed one, so they know sit, stay, and when to not jump.
4. Go slowly with the introductions. Some dogs may need to be restrained with a leash at first. When bringing baby home, you may want to greet your dog alone at first so they are not too excited when baby comes in. And always let the pet approach the baby. Don’t force any interaction your pet is not ready for.
5. Try to give your animal attention when baby is around.
6. Some animals will need their own space. Try to have areas that your pets can escape to and children can’t access.
7. ALWAYS SUPERVISE ALL INTERACTIONS WITH CHILDREN. This is so important no matter how gentle or trusted your pet is. Many normal animal behaviors and reactions could potentially harm a child. A child may pull on tails or ears and your pet may respond with a snip or growl. These are normal reactions when your pet is trying to give a warning, and you don’t want to test the limits of even the most gentle animal.
Our transition has gone well for the most part. The animals are all gentle with Henry so far. The cats ignore him most of the time, and Hank will come up and gingerly lick him when he does acknowledge him. The biggest change has been the amount of attention we can offer them. I can’t say we were perfect in following any of these tips. The first few weeks were absolutely crazy for us all. With some time and patience things have settled down quite a bit, and we are making extra effort to keep things as normal as possible for them. Cats are notorious for not liking change, and one of ours (probably Percy, but we aren’t sure) is showing us this through pooping in different spots throughout the house. So if you are struggling with a similar situation, just know that vets go through this too! Trainers and behaviorists can be a good resource if you are having a difficult transition. And please reach out to us at Animal Care Center & Pet Care Center if you need anything. We are happy to help the best as we can!
– Dr. Laura Faucheux