The addition of a baby, while thrilling, can also be an anxiety-inducing and guilt-ridden experience if you already have a fur baby. After all, our pets came first. How will they react to being pushed off the lap? Fortunately, plenty of pets make the transition easily, and for those that do struggle there's a lot we, as owners, can do in terms of prevention and preparation. Pregnancy offers you several months to get your critters ready, so start with the following things to do with your fur baby before your human baby shows up.
By the time I got married I owned a young mini-Schnauzer and two elderly cats. I'd had my kitties since just after college, and I brought my pup with me when I moved home after living in Honduras. They were a big part of my life and significant contributors to my personal welfare. When I got pregnant, I naturally worried about how they would respond — to my changing body, to my divided attention, and to the squalling creature messing with their collective mellow. I definitely made an effort to smooth the way, but they all acclimatized pretty rapidly to the new normal once baby girl made her debut.
A baby is a huge change for everyone in the family, and pets are no exception. We can help them by making sure that adjustments are made gradually before baby's arrival. It's tempting to lavish our pets with play and tender loving care when we know we soon won't have the time, but that can create greater frustration for them when faced with their new reality. Instead, to best prepare your beloved balls of fluff, try the following:
It's important to meet your pet's needs for affection, and a good old fashioned cuddle session is good for you as well, especially when you're navigating the aches, pains, and emotions of pregnancy. Plus, you can use the time to desensitize them to not-so-gentle baby touches by stroking their bellies and in between their paw pads.
You do have to be careful not to heap on so much good lovin' that your pet then feels neglected when baby inevitably takes up all your time. This is a good time to plan for ways that you can get some petting in when that is the case, like inviting your cat or dog to curl up next to you while you nurse or pump.
Go On All The Walks
Your four-legged friend needs exercise, and you and baby will want the fresh air anyway, so pre-newborn is a great time to practice walking with the, for now, empty stroller (literally nothing to see here, folks). Fido needs to learn to keep pace with mama.
Parents warns against looping the leash around the handle in case your pup gets a whiff of squirrel and decides to make a lunge for it.
Get Some New Toys
Your life with a new baby will revolve around feeding, sleeping, and pooping, so it's to your benefit to have your pet be able to play independently. Plus, the gift of some new toys sends the message that they're still very much loved by you.
If they're going to want to play fetch or tug-of-war with it, it's probably not a good choice for now. For dogs, I like to fill a Kong with peanut butter that I then freeze. It'll keep them busy for hours. Our cats loved their Kitty City jungle gym.
Stock Up On Treats
A stash of goodies can go a long way toward easing an animal's anxiety when your water breaks and you have to rush out the door, and you'll want to have them on hand anyway to reward them for performing desired behaviors.
According to VetStreet, playing a CD of baby sounds to your cat while simultaneously offering treats can help them stay relaxed and develop positive associations.
Enroll In Obedience Training
Your canine should know basic commands, and behaviors, like jumping up, need to be addressed before you have a newborn in your arms. Where to turn? You can register your dog for everything from private lessons to temperament testing to "baby readiness" classes.
PawCulture recommends positive reinforcement training for expectant parents and fur siblings. This method teaches important commands like "leave it" that will come in handy when Rover tries to steal baby's pacifier.
Check Out Doggie Daycares
You're probably going to be too tired to toss the Frisbee for Spot as a sleep-deprived new mom. Hell, you might be too tired now. Do your research before you deliver, and find a doggie daycare or dog-walker that can help fill those gaps once you're in newborn-care mode.
At the same time, you can be looking for care for your pets for during your hospital stay. They should have a sitter they know and like or go to a familiar kennel.
Let Them Get Used To The Gear
A new baby means a whole lot of new stuff. For your pets, it's a lot of sniffing to attend to, not to mention a disruption to their environment.
Introduce your pet to the crib, swing, and toys, and even smells like diaper cream or baby powder. Whatever your limits are going to be, set them now. (But, I mean, definitely take a picture of your cat before you kick them out of the bassinet.)
Expose Them To Babies
Some experts recommend using a baby doll to familiarize your pet with the idea of a baby, but that's personally not my style. I'd rather introduce them, first at a distance and then under close supervision, to the real thing.
A few practice sessions with a friend or neighbor's little one can get an animal accustomed to the unpredictability of babies, toddlers, and young children, as well as help you pinpoint possible triggers or trouble spots.
Visit The Vet
Create A Safe Space
Sooner rather than later, that baby is going to be all up in their business. Your pet needs a place to escape that is theirs alone. That might a bed that no one else can use or a crate or mat that you train them to go to.
For your feline friends, install a perch or tree that allows them to be high up and away from the pandemonium. Sorry, but you can't have one, too.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. Ne