One of the most common reasons pets are surrendered at the Animal Protective Foundation (APF) is the arrival of a new baby in the home. A new baby entering the home environment can be stressful — especially for your pets. Not only is there a new little person in your household but your entire routine also changes.
Before the arrival of a new baby, it is important to plan how to make the transition as smooth as possible for all furry friends in the household. Laura Weiner, LVT, clinic manager of APF’s spay and neuter clinic, said simple changes made the transition easier with her first child.
“During my pregnancy with my daughter, my husband and I worked hard to prepare our two dogs for the change by putting up gates ahead of time, creating a solid routine for sleeping and making sure they had their own safe spaces when they needed to relax away from the baby.” she said. “Patience and understanding that a new bond is being created between your fur babies and your newborn is crucial to the success of keeping everyone happy and healthy.”
Here are some changes they made to help their two dogs prepare for this adjustment.
1. Make routine changes early.
Do your cats and dogs sleep in the same room or bed as you? Consider whether your pet will be comfortable continuing that practice with a newborn in the room that will be up and noisy every few hours. Months before our delivery, I slowly transitioned my dogs to sleep in a different room. Changes in routine can be stressful for both people and pets, so making the switch early creates a slower transition for everyone.
2. Create safe spaces for the new baby as well as your pets.
Decide early if your pets will be allowed in the nursery. If not, begin training your pets to resepect the off-limits space long before the newborn’s arrival. On the same note, what space in your home does your pet have to go where they can escape and enjoy some quiet time to settle? Purchase baby gates for space dividers and install them prior to your newborn arriving. This allows designated areas not only for the newborn but also for your pet if they want some time away from the new change.
3. Teach your pet the difference between baby toys/items and theirs.
Set up your crib and other baby items early and set clear boundaries so your pet understands that these items are not theirs. Do not let your pet play with baby toys — that will help prevent possible future resource guarding.
Nurseries also come with many new items. It is great to give your dog or cat as much time as possible to get used to the new setup.
4. Set up a plan for pet care for when you deliver your child.
Remember that your household may be busy and you may be away a long period; have a plan to be sure your pet receives care and enrichment while you are gone. You definitely do not want to return home with a new baby to a pet full of energy looking for entertainment!
5. Provide a slow introduction.
Plan to send a family member home with an object from the baby, like a blanket, that will contain their scent so they can get used to that before the baby enters your home. When it is time for an introduction, move slowly, and be sure to supervise interactions between your pet and child.
If you ever do feel overwhelmed, the APF is available as a resource. The APF can sometimes provide equipment suach as crates and/or baby gates to help you in your transition to keep your pet apart of your new family.
Unfortunately, sometimes even the best plans go awry, and there are dogs and cats that are not comfortable around children. If the best thing for your pet is to find them a home that is more structured in its routine, we will do our best to find them a great home for their next chapter.
APF contributes Animal Chronicles and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community. Visit animalprotective.org, follow us on social media @AnimalProtectiveFoundation or email us at [email protected]