Clients have often asked me if I have kids, and the answer has always been ‘Yes, furry and four (or three) legged.’ Yeah, I’m talking about my pets. But exciting news on the way: a human baby will soon be arriving in my home! Whereas I’m really proficient at taking care of pets, a baby is a whole other experience, and my wife and I are feverishly reading books to prepare for this momentous life change. At the same time, some people have asked ‘What about your pets?’
Our pets aren’t going anywhere, so the best thing we can do is some prep work to help them adjust to the new home environment. Yep, you read that correctly, getting rid of our pets is not an option, and I would encourage everyone else to work with their pets rather than sending them packing. So let’s review some things my wife and I have been doing with and for our pets before our baby arrives:
- Get organized early – Don’t build the crib and paint the nursery before the at-home test is confirmed, but also don’t try to get it done the week before the baby arrives. We started early to give the pets time to adjust to the new decor. Paint the room and build some furniture, and let the pets see it from a distance or get them used to it before baby arrives (if you’ll allow them in the room). We already put up a baby gate on the door so we can sit in the nursery or spend time in there without the pets under foot. This is helpful because when the baby is here, that won’t be the time for the pets to be shocked by us spending a lot more time in the room. Cats have their own mind, but by arranging things early can help them adjust.
- Practice with a baby – Our dogs are often super-hyper and very excitable. However, we’re worried about their reaction to a new baby… the sight, sounds, and smells. While nobody is going to loan us their baby to practice and we don’t want to collect dirty baby items for the smells, we have borrowed a toy baby doll from a co-worker. We make a point of carrying it around like a regular baby, call it the baby, and even have played crying noises from YouTube. We reward the dogs for not jumping up on us and for remaining calm.
- Teach (or reinforce) obedience skills – Focus on commands like sit, stay, or settle to teach some manners to your dogs. These can be useful to help them avoid causing rough interactions when you are walking around with the baby, as well as when the little one becomes mobile on their own.
- Change the routine – This can have a lot of facets to change for your pets. With a baby, at first nothing will be routine and so it likely won’t be for your pets. Start early by changing walking and feeding times. You may need to boot the dogs out of the bed or off the couch so it’s a good time to get a new dog bed and work on getting them to sleep in it instead of curling up in the human bed. Where your pets may have also been the focus of everyday life, now is not the time to smother them with love and attention – this will only make it worse once the baby arrives and your attention focus shifts. You still want to show them love, but keep it random and not over the top.
There is so much you can do for your pets before your baby arrives! It will take some work, but hopefully will make it easier on everyone as soon as the major life changing event (the birth) happens. Get started now – those nine months go by faster than you think!
Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with two cats, two dogs, two horses, and a rabbit. Dr. Llera also contributes to various other animal and veterinary related blogs. You can find more of his writing at www.DRRYANLLERA.com, or see what else he is up to on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
If there’s something you’ve often wondered or questions you have about regarding pets, let us know by email at [email protected].
*Please note that specific medical questions about your pet cannot be addressed and you should speak with your personal veterinarian.