As anyone who has both "fur babies," and human babies can tell you, they don't always get along. If you were a pet mom first you know your furry friend probably feels left out now that you have a baby to love and care for. And babies aren't always friendly to the family pet, if only because they have no idea what "being friendly" means. While there are ways to help build a lasting bond between your pet and your baby, there also things even the most well-intentioned pet parents do that can accidentally ruin that bond.
For example, it can seem adorable to allow your cat to sleep in your baby's crib, or let your dog snuggle up on the floor with your little one. Until, that is, your pet wakes your baby up every time you manage to get your child to sleep. Your baby doesn't understand how fragile and persnickety your pet is, either, and your pet doesn't know what to make of this drooling, hairless human that grabs their fur and climbs on their back like a pony. So helping both your baby and your part facilitate a safe, loving, lasting relationship is important.
Every pet, every child, every family, and every situation is different, so helping your pet and your baby learn to love one another is going to depend on a variety of factors. But there are a few pitfalls you should avoid if you want them to eventually enjoy a bond that is sure to last a lifetime. So with that in mind, here's how some parents end up hurting that bonding process, and usually entirely by accident:
You Change Your Pet's Routine When Your Baby Arrives
When I had my first child it didn't occur to me that I should change the way I interacted with my pets before my baby arrived. Instead, I wanted to lavish them with love and affection before heading to the hospital and returning with my child. It turns out this is exactly the opposite of what you should do. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a way better strategy is to slowly change your pet's routine and get them used to less attention before your baby is born, so it they don't feel cut off from your affection cold turkey.
You Let Your Baby Hurt Your Pet
Kids can be so rough on animals, my friends, and they don't always understand their furry siblings limits for love, affection, and being touched. After a few times getting hurt, my kitties learned to stay away when the baby was awake. I just wish I had been more attentive when they were together so my pets weren't hurt by accident and felt the need to flee the scene as a result.
You Ignore Your Pet Once Your Baby Arrives
Since they were not around during daylight hours, my pets started to wake me in the middle of the night for attention — yowling, clawing at the door, and even biting my feet while I was trying to get precious sleep. It was the worst. I think if I had paid more attention to my pets during the day, they would have felt more included and, as a result, more willing to stick around when the baby was awake, too.
You Let Your Pet Hurt Your Baby
While it's tempting to let your baby or toddler receive the natural consequences of crawling under the table after grandma's dog, or getting scratched by an irritated cat, it's not the best way to go. A better plan, according to Family Paws Parent Education, is to teach your baby to be gentle with their furry siblings, to always supervise their encounters, and to separate them when things get too intense for either party.
You Isolate Your Pet
I've tried to separate the baby from my pets and vice versa, and with gates and closed doors. But this tactic only made things worse, to be honest. My cats felt neglected, and showed me how they felt by vomiting on my bed, peeing and pooping outside of the litter box, and scratching my furniture. As a result I started to regret my cats' presence, and I love them so much.
You Let Your Pet In The Nursery
Not only are my cats like ninjas and capable of sneaking around undetected, but they seem to have a sixth sense about when we're going to kick them out of the baby's room and, as a result, run under the crib for cover. I wish I had trained our cats to stay out of the nursery before our baby was born, because we're all losing sleep as a result of this exhausting routine.
You Don't Allow For Supervised Fun
According the ASPCA, you should actually get your pet used to being with your baby, and vice versa, for a while each day to help teach them to get along. Supervising these play sessions is important, to be sure, but they will never learn to love each other unless they get a chance to spend time together.
You Let Your Baby Bother Your Pet While They Are Eating
I've learned that the number one rule of pet and human parenting is to not let your child interrupt a pet during meal times. It's a recipe for disaster and is often how babies get hurt by even the most gentle and chill pets.
You Let Your Pet Eat Your Baby's Food
I never, ever should have let my kitties eat my baby's food. At first it was adorable to watch the cats eat food dropped from my son's high chair or nibble on bottles to get out the milk. However, it became less adorable once they started stealing food from his high chair tray when I wasn't looking. It's hard enough to feed a kid without having to kick your pets out of the room during meal time.