Thursday, September 2, 2010

Preparing your pet for the new baby

Recently I’ve learned that a few clients (as well as a very good friend of mine) will be welcoming a new baby into their home, congrats again to all! With all the planning going on it may be easy to forget that at some point the pet and new baby need to be introduced. How will you do this?

Well, before the new baby even arrives there are many important steps to take to ensure that your pet is on the right track toward being receptive of the new addition to the family. Yes, I know that there are a lot of other worries and concerns that come when preparing for the arrival of a new baby, but preparing your pet should be close to the top of the list and going through this preparation will help the transition go a lot smoother.


You may have heard about a disease called toxoplasmosis that can cause abortion or serious birth defects. Most commonly, this disease is acquired by eating infected, under-cooked meats or unwashed vegetables and not from your cat. This parasite can also be found in feces of an infected cat, but direct transmission by ingesting infectious organisms is less common. Cats get infected by eating raw meat, birds, mice or contaminated soil. Luckily for you the disease is easily avoidable and luckily for your cat it doesn’t mean they have to find a new home or resort to living outside. If your cat has been indoors since a kitten, you don’t have mice and you do not feed a raw food diet you probably have nothing to worry about. If your cat is outdoors and they have previously been infected it is likely good immunity against the parasite has developed and they are less likely to pass the infection in their feces. Second, changing the litter box DAILY is VERY IMPORTANT. It takes 1-5 days for the “eggs” that are passed in the feces to become infective and therefore the chances you become infected if the litter box is cleaned daily are low. Third, in order to become infected you must eat an infective “egg,” so wearing gloves and then washing your hands thoroughly after cleaning the litter box should be a habit. Finally, if someone else cleans the litter box for you DAILY, then you have even less chance of being infected!


There are a few reasons for your pet to visit their veterinarian before the baby arrives. For starters, you will be so pre-occupied with the new baby that you may forget to take your pet in for their important physical examination. You will be glad that you don’t have a veterinary appointment after the baby is born and that you have to go in with both a newborn and a pet!

During this veterinary visit it is important that you bring a fresh stool sample with you (your veterinarian can provide a container and a bag to place it in). This stool sample will be examined for any parasites. Your veterinarian will also administer a de-worming medication. Remember, stool sample tests are not 100% and can give a false negative result (your pet is infected but the test came back negative), this is why your pet should be de-wormed even if the test is negative. Why the stool sample if the pet is going to be treated anyways? The sample will help identify the type of infection, if present. Monthly preventatives can be prescribed to make sure your pet continues to be free of not only some internal parasites, but also external parasites such as fleas, ticks and mange mites.

Vaccinations should be updated as needed. Intact pets should be spayed or neutered. You may ask your veterinarian to refer you to a veterinarian that is specially trained in behavior medicine. This is important if your pet is very anxious or appears fearful. Pets that are not that well trained, nip, pounce or swat may need additional training. The behavior specialist will hold a consultation with you and your pet and test its limits so that you are aware of any additional training that may be necessary and how much longer of a transition period may be needed when introducing your pet to the baby.


If your pet is used to being the center of attention they will definitely feel the effects when your focus and energy shifts to the baby. Gradually begin to accustom your pet for this by spending a little less time each week as it gets closer to delivery time. If the parent to be is very attached to the pet it’s a good idea to transition the role of primary care giver to another family member. This will help them feel less ignored when the parent is occupied with the baby. IF you wait until the baby is around and immediately cut-off attention, ignore or scold your pet they will feel stressed.

To avoid the pet jumping on the baby’s chair, crib or other items apply double stick tape to the items. The sensation will cause your pet to jump off. In the short term it is advisable to have a baby gate to limit access into the baby’s room. A gate that the pets can see through is best as it will allow the pet to hear and see what is occurring while you are in the room. Remember to allow the pet access to the room on occasion to get them used to the scents and sounds of the room.
It is a good idea to simulate some day to day activities that will involve the baby. Place a doll in the stroller and go for a walk with it and your pet to get them used to it. Carry the doll when you are around the house.


Make sure there is someone available to come feed and walk your dog or clean your cats litter while you are away at the hospital. It may be a good idea for someone to bring home a blanket or clothing item that has the baby’s scent before you arrive home from the hospital. Once home, have someone else handle the baby as the dog or cat may be anxious to greet you. Calmly greet them and give them a treat if they are behaving.

Never force your pet to get near the baby. When your pet does come near, make sure you reward any good behavior. You want to associate a good interaction as a positive experience. Try and continue regular routines with your pet so that they don’t feel neglected. Make sure you make a little alone time for you and your pet as well.

I will provide tips on introducing a pet to a baby that is little older and mobile in a future article. Remember, ALWAYS supervise your pets when they have the ability to interact with a baby, NEVER leave them unattended, not even to go grab the phone in the other room or answer the door.
By making the proper adjustments your new baby and pet will be able to safely and happily interact!