Cat Behavior E-mail

Bringing Baby Home

Bringing home a new bundle of joy is one of the most exciting moments in life – at least for the parents. Your cat or dog, who has enjoyed the status of favored child up until this point, probably won’t be sharing your enthusiasm unless you properly prepare him ahead of time. Pets are highly territorial, and their natural instinct is to guard what’s theirs – whether that means a favorite toy, a spot on your bed at night, or your undivided attention and affection. A new baby seems to threaten everything your pet holds dear, but you can ease his fears and jealousies by starting to prepare him for the happy event a few months before the new baby actually arrives.

• First things first: schedule a vet appointment to make sure your pet is healthy and all vaccinations are up to date.

• Introduce baby sounds into your home; periodically play a recording of babies crying and cooing, and turn on baby toys that create noise.Whenever the sounds are playing, create a happy experience for your pet by giving him a treat, petting and praising him or playing favorite games together.

• Speak the baby’s name to your pet on a regular basis so it becomes familiar.

• Turn on mechanical infant swings, leave a bouncer around the house and even set up a play pen. Be sure to discourage your pet from barking or jumping at any items that will hold your baby. If your pet won’t be allowed into the baby’s room, use a gate to block entry to the room.

• Carrying a baby doll will also help prepare your pet for the sight of you holding your baby in your arms; rub baby powder and baby oil on your arm so the pet will get used to the smell before baby arrives.

• Obedience training classes or sessions with an animal behavior specialist are other options if you feel your pet is highly jealous, or if he just needs a refresher in basic commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’.

Once the joyous day comes, your pet will still need reassurance of his place within the household. And try to be patient – it will likely take him some time to adjust to his new status and to form a positive relationship with the baby.

• Upon entering the house, have somebody else hold the baby while you greet your pet. Have in your hand a blanket or clothing item with the baby’s smell on it for your pet to sniff.

• Be sure to reward and praise your pet each time he stops outside the entry to your

baby’s room or sits next to you patiently while you hold your baby.

• Never leave your baby and pet unattended together. Even if your pet seems to adjust easily to the baby’s arrival, he still may be highly curious and the interaction between them would be unpredictable without your watchful presence.

• Schedule a short session each day for one-on-one quality time with your pet, to help reduce any feelings he might have of abandonment or loneliness; perhaps each day when the baby goes down for a nap you could sit quietly to enjoy time with your pet to lessen his fears that he no longer matters to you.

By taking these steps to prepare your pet, engaging him in calm interactions with your baby, and still singling him out for fun activities, the transition of adding a new baby to your home should be a smooth one.