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Preparing Your Pet for Baby

When Baby Makes Four

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Pregnant Woman and dog
Photo © Adam Waliczek/Getty Images
Pets are a wonderful part of life. In fact many families choose to start preparing for a baby by having a pet. A pet is a way to have something that is dependent on you and needs you. A pet has to be fed, cared for, groomed, and yes, even potty trained. Once you've decided that you're ready to have a baby, you may be concerned about integrating your baby into your pet's life. Here are some tips for preparing your pets for your new baby.

Dogs and Puppies

To begin preparing your dog for a new baby, you will want to assess your dog's strengths and weaknesses. Is your dog mindful? Does she or he follow commands? If not, you may want to consider obedience training. This can help you go a long way towards feeling like you have got a handle on the situation. It will also help your dog feel more in control. So if you didn't do this when your dog was a puppy, consider obedience training well before the baby comes.

Crate training is another idea that some families find helpful. Rather than think of this as a punishment for a dog who has had free roam of the house, think of it as a place for your dog to escape to, a place of his own. This is also something that you should do well in advance of the baby, just as you wouldn't wait until the new baby was home to move a sibling to a new room or bed.

If your dog has aggressive behaviors or behavior problems in general, get to work on addressing these issues. This will help you feel more adequately prepared to have to deal with the responsibility of baby and dog. It will also help your dog feel like she is not always in trouble. Experts are available to help you address issues that you find problematic.

Cats and Kittens

One of the most often heard old wives tales is that you must get rid of all cats when you are pregnant. This is certainly not true. You do not have to get rid of your cat or kittens while pregnant. The only precaution that you need to take is to guard against toxoplasmosis. While chances are, as a cat owner, you've already had toxoplasmosis, it is harmful to your baby if you contract it while pregnant. To avoid this, skip litter box duty during your pregnancy.

Here Comes Baby

If your pet has never been around a baby, how can you change that? Do you have friends with babies who are willing to come over to your house? Can you play a recording of a baby crying? This allows your dog or cat to see a new baby, without the threat of the new baby staying for long periods of time. It also gives you a chance to see how they react to the new baby and perhaps give you a chance to address specific details.

Consider setting up baby's stuff well before baby is due to arrive. This means that your dog or cat may explore the car seat, the crib and even baby toys. It also means that they become just something else at home. One mom told me that she thought that the cat was way more interested in her baby's toys than the baby, but that the baby simply went along with the package.

If you do not want your cat or dog to be in the nursery or in the car seat, make that clear. Shut the door to the baby's room and don't let your pet in. You can also buy netting to prevent the cat from getting inside the baby's crib if need be. But decide what your expectations are and stick to it. You don't want to send mixed signals. Allowing your pet in the baby's room before birth and then suddenly not once baby is born, blows the entire set up of what you were trying to do.

Once your baby is born, if you are having a hospital birth, consider getting an inexpensive baby blanket to bring to the hospital. Wrap your baby up in the blanket and allow the smell of baby to get onto the blanket. Then bring that blanket home before the baby. Your cat or dog will then be introduced to the smell of baby first.

There are many tips for easing the transition to a family with pets to a family with pets and babies. The main point is that no matter what you need to do, do not wait to do it. The more time you give your pet to prepare for the baby, the easier the transition will be for all of you.

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