My pets aren't just pets: they're family members. In fact, I can't remember a time when I didn't have a furry companion by my side. So I was very aware of how my decision to have a baby would impact my pets, and tried my best to make sure my grumpy cats and my needy newborn got along. It wasn't always easy, to be sure, but I figured out a few ways to help my pet bond with my newborn so I could enjoy a peaceful home. Well, as peaceful as a home with a newborn and territorial cats can be, that is.
The day I brought my daughter home from the hospital, my three finicky cats met us at the door's entranceway. It was clear they thought I had abandoned them, so they seemed excited to welcome us home. Then they saw the baby in the baby carrier and changed their tune almost immediately. Cats are naturally cautious but mine are also protective, so they weren't about to hand over an inch of territory without putting up a fight. They weren't all that impressed by the very loud miniature human suddenly invading their space, either, so I knew I was going to have to put in some work if my newborn and my beloved pets were going to eventually get along.
I didn't want my cats to feel abandoned, and I didn't want my baby to be harmed by curious pets who simply didn't know how to behave around a baby. As a result, I found ways to aid the bonding process between my new baby and my furry felines, including the following:
I Started Long Before My Baby Was Born
When I was pregnant I strategically placed baby items scented with baby lotions and powder near and around our cat's hiding spots. I wanted them to grow familiar with our future baby's smell so they weren't caught off guard when the little one finally arrived.
My cats were a tad confused at first, but over time they grew accustomed to the baby smell. Sure, they were still unsure about the loud newborn once she arrived, but the bonding process was already in motion and, at the very least, they weren't caught off guard by my baby's smell.
I Followed My Pet's Lead
My first night at home with my newborn was a learning experience... in more ways than one. My partner and I weren't the only ones learning how to adjust to life with a newborn, and while we were knee-deep in diapers and bottles we observed our cats sniffing around the baby carrier, in her room, and anywhere they sensed her presence. We didn't interrupt them or stop them or pick them up, though. While we watched them and under our careful supervision, We let them investigate until they seemed to understand what was going on.
I Didn't Force It
You can't tell a pet how to feel, and you can't make a baby love a giant fur ball. Your pet might act like the hate your baby and your baby might act like they hate your pet, but in my experience they both just need time to adjust to one another. I wanted my pets and my baby to get along, yes, but I knew forcing it would only cause more chaos. If your pet stays away from your baby for a while, let them. Eventually, when they feel comfortable, they'll come around.
I Facilitated Playtime
I know cats are different than dogs in the personality department, but they're not always the standoffish jerkfaces most make them out to be. Over time, my cats were up for playing with the baby, and when they were feeling playful I made sure to facilitate same playtimes so that the two could learn to get along and have fun together.
I Still Paid Attention To My Pet
Yes, you aren't going to be able to devote as much time to your beloved pet after your baby is born. Your priorities shift, as they should, and everyone around you (including your pet) has to adjust. But I did make a point to set aside a few minutes, a couple times a day, to give my pet some undivided attention and love. I think even a minute of my time helped my cats eventually see the baby as part of the family and not someone who was taking their place.
I Paid Attention To Any Potential Problems
Newborns and pets can't talk, which can make the entire bonding process difficult. That's why I knew I had to pay attention to both my pet's physical cues and my baby's cues, so I could stop a potentially troubling situation before it turned into a disaster. If my pet appeared agitated, if their hair stood up, or if they made any low noises that signaled distress, I mitigated the situation so there weren't any issues that could potentially harm their future relationship.