We’ve just had a baby. How do we introduce our newborn to our pets?
Animals are creatures of habit and the slightest change in routine can be stressful. Including your pets in baby preparations from the beginning will ensure they are just as excited as you to have a new member of the family. You will likely be buying baby items and decorating a nursery and this is the perfect stage to introduce your pet to the change in routine. Take items out of the box when you receive them and allow your cat or dog to familiarise themselves, at a pace that is comfortable for them. If you have a young or lively dog, you can also start taking your new stroller on dog walks.
Cats and dogs both rely heavily on their sense of smell and scent recognition is key, so introducing baby-related scents such as baby shampoo, into the house early will allow them to adjust in their own time. For cats, you can also wipe a clean cloth gently on their back and wipe the cloth on the crib or carrier. If the cat can smell its own scent on the baby item, it will feel less threatened.
Your new baby is bound to increase the noise levels in your house and, if your pet is sound-sensitive, it is recommended that you start playing baby sounds at regular intervals throughout the day. Play the sounds quietly at first and increase the volume gradually once you sense that your cat or dog is no longer fazed. Going through this exercise prior to the baby’s arrival will avoid distress for your pet and additional stress for you.
If this is your first child, your pet will be used to being the centre of attention. Behaviour that is normal now, such as your dog jumping up when they see you, will no longer be safe if you are carrying your baby. Practice some simple obedience training and rewarding your dog when it doesn’t jump up. If you have a cat, avoid using your hands as a toy and, if you don’t already, start using a cat toy when playing. Children make sudden movements and you don’t want your cat to associate your baby’s limbs with a toy.
While the baby will not be in direct contact with your cat or dog regularly, it is still important to ensure that all vaccines are up to date, including worms and flea treatment. Once your baby arrives, it will have its own unique scent. Have a member of the family take a worn baby dress home to your pet and allow them to sniff the item and familiarise themselves with the scent. Consult your vet if your pet continues to have issues.
Dr Sara Elliott is founder and director of Veterinary Services at British Veterinary Hospital, Dubai. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.