You are having a baby! Congratulations!
Now it is time to start the anxious first time (or second, or third) parenting routine; we need a crib, car seat, stroller, jogging stroller, schedule Dr.s/Midwife appointments, research pregnancy symptoms and potential signs of complications (don’t we all do this? I know I did).
Oh, wait! What about the Fluffy and Fido? I guess Fluffy needs a new home since you can’t clean the litter box, and Fido will have to be an outside only dog right?
How do I know you are wrong? Have you seen our pets? Four LARGE dogs, and three cats! They all love our son, and have accepted him as part of the family/pack from day one. Okay the cats took a little more convincing…
But we have a jumper! What if Fido jumps up and injures me or the baby?
Don’t worry, I also had a jumper! You’d be surprised how most dogs recognize the fact that you are pregnant and will make the proper adjustments without prompting. My youngest pup, Chloe, was the jumper and she noticed how our other three pups had changed their behavior towards me and followed suit. Even now I can walk into the house after being out all day and our pups full of excitement and joy at our return but they still will NOT jump on me, even if I am NOT carrying our son.
There may be the odd pup that doesn’t recognize the difference, in those cases I’d wager the pup was brought into the family while you were pregnant and thinks that your pregnancy is normal everyday you, or is still very young and hasn’t fully learned basic manners, in which case enrolling in some puppy classes will probably help.
I’m afraid our animals will become jealous!
That one is easy, don’t forget to involve them! Don’t change your routine unnecessarily. If you went for walks with them continue to do so, if you went to the park with them continue to do so! If you took them on special trips to a lake or river, continue to do so! Exercise is good while you are pregnant, and as long as you aren’t overdoing it or adding something you aren’t physically used to into your routine you should be fine; albeit perhaps a bit more tired.
You aren’t replacing your pets, you are adding to your family!
Now if for some reason you medically can’t maintain your old routines that is okay, you can always hire a dog walker to help with energy, and puppy classes or puppy sports (like manners classes, flyball or nosework) will give them something new to do without overexerting yourself, even doing some at home trick training and or puzzle toys will give them mental stimulation and keep them involved.
My pet(s) don’t handle change well!
Thankfully I didn’t really have much to worry about this one with our dogs, they do well with new things since we’ve done so much with them. But our cats are a different story. It is not unusual for cats to get skittish when things start changing, and changing fast.
The best thing you can do is make the changes slowly and over time (this works with dogs to by the way). Clear out the room that will be the nursery one weekend (or however long it will take) and let them get used to it over a week or two, then decorate and add to it piece by piece (all you A type personalities will have no problem with this, but for the rest of us we may have to work/plan a bit harder at this one) so the critters can investigate and adjust.
I’m afraid that Fluffy will smother the baby, how to I keep him/her away?
This, is an old wives tale. Cats WILL NOT smother your baby. Odds are your cat will want nothing to do with the new noisy, smelly, and grabby ‘creature’.
The best way to help Fluffy stay away, is let them get used to the nursery before the baby arrives. Let the novelty of the new room/stuff wear off and I can *practically* guarantee that you won’t have to fight your precious kitties natural curiosity.
If you REALLY don’t want Fluffy in the nursery, just shut the door every time you enter/exit the room.
What about litter boxes?
The issue with little boxes and pregnant women is a disease called Toxoplasmosis.
Cats are relatively clean creatures so contact with your cat isn’t an issue, it’s cleaning the boxes that is the issue. With that said, if you’ve grown up with cats then odds are you are probably immune, but so long as you maintain proper hygiene (wear gloves, dust mask, and wash hands afterwards) you won’t have an issue.
Ideally you would have your partner do that for you, but in case that isn’t possible, there are people you can hire to take care of that for you too! (or one of those automated litter boxes where you don’t have to touch the litter at all)
My pet(s) have never been around babies or kids, I’m not sure how they will react.
In this situation I HIGHLY recommend introducing them to kids.
Take your dogs on walks near where kids play to get them used to the noise. Play a recording of babies crying at odd times in the house to get them used to the crying. Carry a doll around all day to mimic carrying a baby. (This is called de-sensativity training)
If you have a friend with kids that are good with animals ask if you can introduce them to your animals to help them adjust.
What about the day we come home?
If at all possible have someone stop by to exercise your pups before hand, a tired dog is a happy well-mannered dog!
When you do come home with your newest addition, have your partner (or a friend/family member) enter first, either the day before or earlier that same day, with something that smells like the new baby (a receiving blanket that baby was in while at the hospital works great). Let everyone smell it and get the ‘newness’ out of their system.
Then when it is time to bring baby in, make sure everyone is calm, and keep baby in the carrier (that’s what I did and mine paid him no mind since they were already used to the carrier), then when you are ready take baby out and walk around (I did this and mine couldn’t care less, despite carrying something being an instinctive curiosity trigger for our pups).
If all goes well you should have a well-adjusted pack in a matter of weeks. A new family member is a big adjustment, so don’t be discouraged if it takes more time for things to calm down.
I am not a Certified Trainer, Animal Behaviorist, or Veterinarian! You know your pets better than anyone; the above information is based on my experiences and meant to help you relax and realize that your pets are learning just like you are, and how to help them adjust by keeping in mind their own natural tendencies.
That being said, if you have some tips of your own to add, or if you have any other questions, would like some more advice from someone who has been there done that, or would like help in finding a Certified Trainer, or Animal Behaviorist feel free to contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org please put the title of this post ‘Introducing Pets to a New Baby’ as the subject line, and I will get back to you as soon as I can!