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3 Most Common Mistakes: Pets

How to introduce your new baby to your older, fuzzier one.

By babbleeditors |

What are the 3 most common mistakes new parents make regarding their pets?

Expert: Jennifer Andrew, Humane Educator at the Best Friends Animal Society, mother of one, and proud owner of a dog and a cat.

1. Throwing In the Towel

“One issue I see a lot is that when people have a new baby, they often feel like they have to give up their pet. In certain cases, it probably is the best thing, but in most cases, it just takes a little bit of planning to make it work. When you know you’re going to have a baby, you need to make sure that your pet is well trained. Many people, when they come home, let the dog jump up on them or roughhouse with them. If you don’t have a baby, it’s not a big deal, but once the baby comes it is. If you’re holding the baby and the dog jumps up on you, suddenly, the dog is getting yelled at and it doesn’t understand why. So you need to plan ahead and do some basic training. Make sure the dog can sit, stay, and follow basic commands. You need to interact with your pet as though you had a baby in the house already. If you don’t want your pet to behave a certain way when the baby is around, start teaching your pet that during your pregnancy.”

2. Not Preparing the Pet for Change

“You can also help your pet to adjust by getting him used to a baby’s sounds and smells. Before you bring the baby home, you usually have the baby’s room and furniture set up. You should let your pet smell all of the new stuff. This is particularly helpful with cats. Let your cat or dog go in and walk around and smell everything – all of the new furniture, clothes and products. It’s good, because you’re telling your pet that something new is going to be coming in and it will keep him from getting jealous. Don’t, however, let him lay in the crib or on the baby blankets, because you don’t want him to think it’s okay to do once the baby is there. Another helpful thing is to buy a CD of baby sounds. You can put it on and gradually increase the volume so that your pet can get used to the sounds of whining and crying. My husband and I did this before our daughter was born. As it turned out, my dog was fine with the noise, but my husband and I were both like, ‘Oh no! Turn it off!’ It was good preparation for us too!”

3. Letting Pets in the Crib

“Sometimes I read in the different parenting forums things like, ‘Our cat loves our baby. She sleeps next to her all the time.’ This really scares me. You never, ever want to leave any animal alone with a baby. Your cat should never sleep with your baby, because a cat can accidentally smother an infant. There can also be severe allergic reactions at that age. Other people will think, ‘My dog loves people, so it’s okay to leave him in the room with the baby for just a minute,’ but it’s not true. Dogs don’t recognize babies as human beings for the first few months of their lives. For some reason, the baby’s smell is different than an adult’s and a newborn also sounds like an injured rabbit. This can spark an animal’s prey drive, even in an otherwise calm dog. When you are in the room with the dog and the baby, make sure that the baby is always higher, physically, than the dog. You want the dog to know that the baby is dominant over him. Having pets and kids together can be a great experience. You just always want to err on the side of caution with how you handle it.”

As told to Lindsay Armstrong

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16 thoughts on “3 Most Common Mistakes: Pets

  1. leahsmom says:

    I had never heard this before: “Dogs don’t recognize babies as human beings for the first few months of
    their lives. For some reason, the baby’s smell is different than an
    adult’s. . . ” – that’s really interesting!

  2. nahrie says:

    I’m surprised that the kitty trying to kill the baby myth is being put up as fact here.  Cats are not lying on babies.  They’re like excess bedding, toys, or crib bumpers; they’re possibly a SIDS risk.  So yes, keep kitty out of the crib.  But not because he’s going to smother the baby.  Smothering legends go as far back (at least documented anyway) as the 1700′s.  To  help update people a bit, I’ve included some articles.  Hope this helps everybody!
    http://www.newser.com/story/49896/your-cat-will-not-smother-your-baby.html
    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/content/charmpost/epaper/2009/02/09/a3d_brazelton_0209.html
    http://www.snopes.com/critters/wild/catsuck.asp
    http://www.cat-world.com.au/cat-worldbaby.htm

  3. AnimalHouse says:

    I worked at an animal shelter for years, and making use of the latest behavioural advice, helped many people with introductions and problems between pets and new babies/children. But not until I had my own daughter two years ago did the reality of pets and babies make sense outside of textbook ideas and other people’s stories. In the end, the biggest thing I found to help ease the transition of a new household member was to (gasp) not make a huge deal about it.What do I mean by that?Yes, I think animals will be animals and you need to be vigilant. You should not leave newborns alone with a pet. But I also think people get so wrapped up in sanitizing and protecting the new baby from the animals that the animals are often more likely to act out (be it by urinating outside the litterbox, destroying the couch, or actually physically reacting negatively towards the baby) than they would be for us to treat the introduction of a new baby in the home the same with our animals as we would with another sibling/human child. Animals (and babies) can pick up on our own anxieties and this can make the transition more difficult than it needs to be. We happen to have four cats and a dog, all that were here four or more years before my daughter arrived. The new baby was certainly a rude awakening to our previously (and relatively) quiet household. With our dog, for years we had made sure she met children and was exposed to them from a young age as we knew we hoped to have children someday ourselves – but that same exposure wasn’t as easy for our cats despite the occasional visits of friends with children (which my cats often chose to not be a part of, regardless!). And playing CDs of crying babies and bringing the scent of baby home before baby arrives only go so far. This loud, smelly (perhaps interestingly so), attention-draining creature is here to stay! So play your CDs and carry a baby doll around the house if you like – it won’t hurt at least. But also remember to spend extra time with your animals when the new baby comes home. Let them smell the baby – extremely supervised at first but if you know your pets well you will know when you can loosen the leash a little, so to speak. Don’t worry about cat or dog hair in the nursery – rooms that are off limits to the animals make them that much more attractive and a little dog or cat hair is likely to help build up their immunity to pet allergies**. And if the cat takes a nap with your six month old, be happy the cat wants to spend time with him or her and nurture that relationship as long as you have observed good interaction with the baby and cat previously for the first several months before that.My toddler has a fantastic relationship with our animals and animals in general. I think growing up in a home with them is a huge benefit, and she has learned at a young age about gentle touches and being kind to the animals – there have been some pulled tails along the way but even those we passed through that relatively quickly. I think some of what we learned introducing the animals to her and vice versa will serve us well when baby #2 arrives and our daughter is introduced to him/her, as well! All this said, I don’t think every animal can live with children – some possessive behaviors (particularly in dogs, generally with food) and other psychological problems are not correctable or safe around youngsters. Knowing your animal, being realistic about the situation, and taking it slow and calmly are important – and if you aren’t sure, ask a professional for help. But generally speaking, animals and kids can be a great compliment to each other and have lived harmoniously together for centuries – and a little commonsense goes a long way!**For more on pets and allergies, see: http://singaporecommunitycats.blogspot.com/2009/03/study-pets-halt-allergies-in-infants.htmlhttp://news.bio-medicine.org/medicine-news-2/Children-with-dogs–cats-have-reduced-risk-of-allergies-7230-1/ )

  4. dogmom says:

    I generally agree with this article but have to wonder about a few things. I find the idea that dogs don’t recognize babies as humans for the first few months pretty suspect. Where did the author get this “fact”? How has this been confirmed? We’re only just beginning to realize the information dogs can read through smell (old/young, male/female, sick/healthy). If they can smell cancer and impending seizures… why wouldn’t they recognize a baby? Also, a baby does not sound like an injured rabbit… injured rabbits don’t make a lot of noise- what animal would advertise that they’re hurt and vulnerable to predators? This just sounded made up. I don’t argue that something about a baby could trigger a prey drive in a dog. The two should always be supervised and I agree with everything else in this article. But dogs are more intuitive than the author purports.

  5. Suesbooks says:

    No matter how tame your cat or dog may be, a baby is different. You never know when a cat or dog may become jealous or how they will react to a baby for any number of things that babies do. It is alway better to be cautious than sorry. Just like it is better not to leave your baby in the room alone with your toddler or young children, it is also better not to leave your baby alone with an animal. You never know what could set them off. Accidents happen and if you are there, at least you can see it and correct it or intervene. Also, that is a good point about allergies.

  6. Gal73 says:

    I once posted on truuconfessions.com about this, I was hyper vigilant around my baby and dog. My dog is a good dog but dh was bite by the family dog when he was a year old. The dog wasn’t vicious but it was old and had trouble seeing, it snapped at dh and hurt him very badly. I can’t stress enough not to leave your baby alone with your dog.

  7. Gabba says:

    Prevention is always the best thing, and before you have the baby, it’s always best to get ahead of problems before they start. Exposing the dog to baby scents, baby sounds, etcetera, is not the way to go (you could do them all if it makes you feel better but it won’t make a lick of difference). Rather, you have to work on your leadership skills: does your dog *obey* you and respect you and the rules you have created in your household? Because if the dog thinks he’s the boss, and you bring the baby home, he’s going to think that how to deal with the baby is his call, not yours.
    Dogs know what a baby is, but I feel one of the biggest problems people encounter, and don’t even know, is that they don’t make it clear to the dog *whose* baby it is, exactly. If you’ve made it clear to the dog that you’re the boss, and also, that this baby is yours, you shouldn’t really have a problem. Expose the dog to the baby by carrying the baby protectively around him, but don’t ‘offer’ him the baby to sniff; he can smell the baby from a mile away. What’s important is to establish early on that this is your infant and will be protected and cared for by you. Dogs know this; their social structure is very similar to ours. As I say all the time, mother dog never lets other members of the pack approach her babies until they’re a certain age. Neither should you.
    As for cats, they generally take things in day by day. Keep them off the crib and away from the baby when you’re not around and you should be fine. They can do dangerous things like jump on the baby or smother the baby, and you can’t really train them out of it as they tend to be thoughtless like that.

  8. Shannon D. Stabbert says:

    I decided not to take in a stray cat because I didn’t want it around a baby, had a cat as a child that would bring in all kids of animal parts and pieces as “offerings.” Ugh. No thanks.

    I like what Caesar Milan says about making sure to “claim” all of the baby’s stuff. My dog doesn’t think like a toddler… he doesn’t want to go somewhere more just because I don’t want him to. I am Alpha, I say no, you can’t go in the baby’s room, so he doesn’t. I have left some baby items out for him to smell, but not “offered” them to him to do so, that seems confusing to me. I have also been weaning him off from our cuddle time a bit as it will be cut down considerably once baby is here and I don’t want it to be too much of a shock… he’s 11 years old and used to being an “only child.”

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  13. Candace Elmore says:

    anybody who gets rid of or refuses to have pets b/c of a baby is ignorant. if they are prepared for the baby you have nothing to worry about. my cat loves my baby she will try to wash her hair and will sit on her feet to keep them warm. she wont go up to her unless we tell her she can. its all about being prepared.

  14. angelica says:

    actually im not ignorant for getting rid of the cats i had cux ey were pooping and dirtying everything i have athzma as well so all nasty dogs and cats away from me..eewf how much i hate when theres ppl who dont know how to wash em en ey sit right next to us n is gross w eir pist h

  15. Heather says:

    As for the cat smothering thing… depending on your cat, this can actually happen. Both of my cats have at one time or another woken me up by laying on my face when I was sleeping making it hard to breathe. The one cat (when she was a kitten) loved to lay across your mouth and nose – I have no idea why. I have another cat who currently will just flop on top of you if he’s particularly loving, and this has included flopping on my face and remaining there. So the idea of a cat accidentally smothering a baby – not so farfetched.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Was reading this article to try @ find out why my male dog likes the Babys room so much? He’ll sleep on the floor when Raven is @ isn’t in the cot

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