Q: We are having a baby, how do I prepare my dogs and cats for the arrival of our new family member? A: It is important that prior to the baby, we start introducing the animals to the baby's things (ie: crib, change table, car seat, etc) so that they are not foreign along with the baby when he or she arrives. Allow the animals to enter the baby's room and sniff around. Any changes to the house will cause some anxiety to the pet, so gradually doing this over a few weeks will help. For cats it would be advisable to place a Feliway diffuser in the room a few weeks prior to, and during this change, and for dogs use a DAP diffuser. These pheromones will help to settle the animals and keep them calm. It would also be a good idea to introduce the baby gate well before the arrival so that the dogs know that they are to be behind it regularly. They should be well accustomed to the gate by the time the baby is home.
We want to keep cats out of the crib, so always ensure the cats are out of the baby's sleeping quarters when the baby is sleeping. A mesh tent is a good idea to help avoid animals climbing into the crib.
The day of the baby's arrival, allow mom to come into the house empty handed to give all of the animals a well deserved greeting. After they have received lots of love and attention, the baby can come in. Allow the animals to sniff the baby, but keep him or her in safe range at first introduction. Most of the attention is going to go to the baby, so ensure to make time for the animals, and keep their routines consistent.
If you have a pet that has severe anxiety, or aggressive behavior, it is best to discuss this with a Veterinarian or Behaviorist long before the baby is due. We need to get these behaviors in order so that there is less stress within the household at the time of the new addition.
Lastly, remember to never leave your baby unattended in the presence of an animal no matter how nice they may be, after all a pet is still an animal- be responsible! Dr. Jodi Viste