How to Prepare Your Pet for a Baby
While you’re busy preparing for the arrival of your newborn, there’s one important step you can’t miss: Preparing your pets.
Up until now, your dog or cat has been the center of attention. Getting him ready for the new baby in the house is a process you should begin before or during pregnancy.
In this guide, we will outline changes pets go through during your pregnancy, the benefits your baby gets from pets and the steps you should take before bringing your baby home.
Does My Pet Know I’m Pregnant?
If you’ve noticed your pet acting differently since you’ve got pregnant, you may be wondering if she can tell you’re pregnant. While she probably isn’t expecting you to have a baby in 9 months, pets can often notice subtle changes. From body language to behavior, a dog or cat can pick up on your changing moods.
As you go through your pregnancy journey, it’s likely that your daily routines are changing and you’re spending more time relaxing on the sofa. You may be experiencing pregnancy mood swings and paying less attention to your cat or dog. Pets may detect this and begin acting differently as a result.
Especially if you have a dog, you may notice her becoming more protective of you. She may bark or try to block family members from entering the room you’re in. She may also stick by your side more than usual and become more patient.
Cats often notice your pregnancy less. They may either seem uninterested or more loving than usual.
Whatever pet you have, try to keep their schedule the same or close to what it was before pregnancy. This will prevent them from acting out. Get your partner or another family member to help out while you’re pregnant and after you have your baby.
You should also make arrangements for someone to take care of your pets while you’re in the hospital. Plan ahead of time by writing out instructions for their routine and feeding schedule.
Introduce Baby to Pets: The Benefits
If you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to have a pet with a newborn baby, the answer is usually yes! As long as the pet is trained, friendly and supervised around the baby, it can actually be beneficial for him or her.
A 2017 study conducted at the University of Alberta shows that babies who grow up with furry friends have a lower risk of obesity and developing allergies. Researchers theorize that exposing infants to the bacteria from a pet’s fur can create early immunity. This can happen while the baby is still inside the womb up to their first three months. The study also suggests that pets could decrease a mother’s chances of passing on a step infection. This means a newborn’s chances of pneumonia are also decreased.
Another 2012 study found that babies who grow up with a cat or dog are less likely to get sick. Having a pet may lower your newborn’s chances of getting a cold.
Teach Your Pet the Basics
Before giving birth, it’s ideal that your pet has some basic training. If you have a dog, whether you’re already pregnant or trying to conceive, it’s not too late to take him to obedience lessons. Search for dog training sessions in your area.
If you live in a rural area or don’t wish to attend in-person lessons, you can try some online training courses. Here are a few options:
- Dog training videos on YouTube
- Dog training courses on Udemy.com
Whichever course you choose, your dog should know a few commands that will lay the foundation for other lessons once the baby comes.
- Sit— Your dog should know how to sit even when he’s super excited. If your dog already knows this command, practice getting him to sit when he’s distracted. Since a baby will provide a reason for him to be energetic, practicing this now will be helpful.
- Stay— If your dog usually follows you around the house, this will be a useful command. There may be times that you wish to tend to your baby without the “help” of your dog.
- Lay Down— When your dog wants to jump up to your baby in excitement, “lay down” will be another useful trick.
- Leave it— Whether your dog bites on your shoe or finds a tasty second-hand treat on the sidewalk, teaching him to “leave it” alone is useful. But once the baby arrives, this command will be essential. With new squeaky baby toys and baby supplies laying around, there will be a whole new set of objects for your dog to sneak. This will also be a helpful trick to prevent your dog from snatching food.
- Come— This is another basic command that can be helpful in a variety of situations. If your dog is hanging around in your baby’s room too often, telling him to “come” is a quick way to get him to leave. If you’re busy tending to your baby and your dog is out of view and you think he’s up to something, saying this command will also be useful.
Since cats often keep to themselves, they will need less training than dogs before the baby arrives.
Give Your Pet His Own Space
Whether you have a cat or dog, make sure to give them their own space they can retreat to. A laundry room, spare room or crate is a good option for dogs. Spaces up high such as shelves are ideal for cats. Keep their food and water bowls, toys and comfortable blankets in this area. If your pet gets overwhelmed by the noise, he will know he has a safe area to rest.
If you have a dog, teaching him the command “place” and having him walk to his space can be helpful once the baby comes. This way, when you’re busy with your newborn, your dog will be out of the way. Here are a few tips to teach him this trick.
Get Your Pet Used to Babies
If possible, you can have babies or young children visit your home and interact with your pets while supervised. However, there are ways to get your dog or cat used to babies without any being present.
Since cats and dogs sense of hearing is more acute than ours, they may be more sensitive to baby noises. For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to get them used to these noises ahead of time. Play audio of babies crying and gurgling. Start at a low volume and then gradually make it louder. After each session, reward your pet with a treat to encourage their good behavior.
Another thing your pet will need to get used to is rougher handling by children. To accomplish this, gently poke and prod your dog or cat in places he’s not used to such as the ears, face, tail or feet. Gently grab or pinch his skin. To make it a good experience for your pet, make sure to reward her with treats afterward. This way, when your baby unintentionally is a little too rough, your cat or dog will associate the behavior with food.
Your pet will also need to get used to a crawling baby. This may sound silly, but begin to crawl toward your dog. When he lifts his head without excitement or without pouncing on you, reward him with a treat.
Meeting the Baby
When you walk into your home with your baby for the first time, have a calm and relaxed attitude. Have your partner leash your dog or cat at first for safety reasons. Talk to your dog in a calm voice and allow her to sniff the baby if she chooses. After a few seconds of sniffing, tell your dog to sit or lie down and have your partner or helper reward her with a treat. At this time, it’s a good idea to distract them with a new toy or bone.
As time goes on, slowly increase their interactions, making sure to reward your pet after each time.
Although most of your time will be spent with your newborn, it’s important to still pay attention and give affection to your pet. Have your partner or another family member help with this.
Never leave your dog or cat alone with your baby unsupervised. Even if you know your pet is friendly, it is never worth the chance.
Professional Dog Help
If you have an aggressive dog or cat, he will need professional training before the baby arrives. Some trainers offer temperament tests that evaluate how your dog will act around a baby. If your dog or cat is still exhibiting behavior that would be unsafe for the baby, consider making other arrangements.
If your dog is friendly but you’re having a hard time teaching him, consider hiring a professional dog trainer for private lessons. Many trainers and vets also offer “baby readiness” classes.
Some books worth checking out include:
- Childproofing Your Dog: A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog for the Children in Your Life
- There’s a Baby in the House!: Preparing Your Dog for the Arrival of a Child
- Readying Riley: A Much Needed Guide to Preparing Your Fur Baby for Your Human One
- Introduction: How to Use These Sounds to Prepare Your Dog
Are you getting your pet ready for a baby? If so, comment below the steps you’re taking. If you have any pregnant friends with animals, be sure to share this article with them too!
P.S. Have you checked out our fetal dopplers? These amazing at-home devices allow you to listen to your baby’s heartbeat while inside the womb—just like you do during an ultrasound!