Latest News

Introducing Newborns & Toddlers to your Pet

Paws and Pacifiers: Guidelines for a Smooth Introduction of Newborns and Pets

While September marks the start of spring in Australia, it is also coincidentally the most popular month for babies to be born, with September 17th being the most common birthday for these new additions.[1] 

As families anticipate a precious newborn, they’ll also be thinking about integrating their beloved pets seamlessly into their growing household.

Preparing for the arrival of a newborn is a daunting prospect for most parents, particularly when you’re unsure how your beloved pets will react to a new member of the family. Petstock Ambassador and Pet Behaviour Specialist Lara Shannon, has outlined her top tips on integrating your newborn and pets as effortlessly as possible in the family home.

#1. Preparing for the arrival of your newborn

To begin with, regardless of whether your furry companion is a dog, a cat, or another type of pet, it's important to have a plan in place. While dogs typically have a strong desire to please their owners, they might exhibit feelings of jealousy due to no longer being the centre of attention. This holds true for cats as well. 

While certain cats are more adaptable than others, generally speaking, cats can be quite sensitive. It's advisable to use the nine months of pregnancy to prepare your cat or dog for the impending arrival of the new baby.

✔️ Prepare your space: As you’re preparing the home for a newborn's arrival, your pet will likely be overwhelmed with new smells, sights and items, which may take some getting used to. Creating physical boundaries are important, you can do this by introducing a baby gate and allowing your pet access to other items like a crib and clothing in advance so they have time to adjust to these changes in their environment.

✔️ Keeping up-to-date with vet visits: Check-ups with your veterinarian are a must regardless of an incoming bub, but scheduling an appointment closer to the due date will ensure that your pet is healthy and free of any illnesses that could impact your baby. Some bacterial infections, viruses and parasites can be contagious to humans so it is important to treat these accordingly prior to a newborn's arrival.

✔️ Slowly make changes to your routine: Lastly, it is helpful to remember that our furry friends are likely used to being your core focus at home, and could potentially feel uncomfortable with any sudden changes to their environment. Introducing them to the nursery or reinforcing spaces that will be pet free once your baby arrives, should begin in the months leading up to your due date.

Consider incorporating baby sounds that are readily accessible online into your pet's daily routine. This can be done during meals, interactions, and playtime.

Gradual exposure will aid your pet in adjusting to these new sounds, ultimately reducing anxiety when the significant day arrives. Ensuring your pet feels loved throughout this transition is key, as it plays a pivotal role in alleviating any potential anxiety that might emerge when the awaited day finally dawns.

2. After the baby has arrived

Bringing a newborn home can be a significant adjustment for the entire family, including our beloved pets. Always ensure that you provide plenty of attention and playtime to your pet once your baby is home, so that they don’t feel left out or forgotten.

It is vital that you let your pet take their time in getting accustomed to your baby, and refrain from forcing them to accept the major changes happening to their home straight away. With some extra love and support, it is likely that they will come around to the newest family member in their own time so staying calm and patient is key. If your pet is still showing signs of distress, consider introducing a Calming Scented Toy for your dog or a Calming Spray for your cat.

✔️ Scented items: If you have a spare pair of hands, once your baby has arrived it can be helpful to get your fur baby used to their scent. Consider taking a new blanket to the hospital to wrap your baby in, or bringing home some freshly worn clothes to present to your pet, while simultaneously giving them a reward to promote a positive reaction when you bring your baby home.

✔️ Cats vs dogs: Remember that cats and dogs will likely react differently to the interruption of a newborn into their space, however it is important not to leave either unsupervised with your baby. Although cats may gravitate towards new blankets or cosy up to your newborn for extra warmth, they may also show a lack of interest and should be watched carefully for any sign of irritation through hissing or scratching.

Unlike cats, dogs will likely be more captivated by your baby and can become quite protective quickly. As long as you monitor your dog and reward positive and gentle behaviours, it's possible that they may have a new best friend!

✔️ Visitors: With your extended family and friends itching to meet the newest addition to the brood, ensure that you keep a dedicated area for your pets filled with enrichment toys and comfort items to prevent increased anxiety so they know they have a safe space to retreat to should it all be too overwhelming.

3. Introducing a pet to your toddlers

Image by freepic.diller on Freepik

When introducing young children to a pet, it's crucial to educate them on appropriate interactions with animals, which involves acting calm and understanding pets' body language. Research indicates that children under five often interpret dog expressions based on human similarities.[2] This can lead to misunderstandings, such as mistaking a dog's bared teeth for a friendly smile, even when the dog might be displaying aggression.

Always remember to supervise interactions between young children and pets and closely monitor your pet’s body language for signs of discomfort or distress. 

Image by user18526052 on Freepik

This attentiveness is particularly crucial during the initial days of introducing a new pet or vice versa. Additionally, reinforcing positive behaviours from your pet, like being calm or curious around children, through treats or praise can help solidify these actions for the future.

The bond between humans and pets is undeniably special, so if you are expanding your family with a puppy or a kitten, consider purchasing a Puppy or Kitten starter pack, to make your fur baby feel right at home.

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017
2. PLoS ONE, 2023

MEDIA RELEASE, September 2023

Related Stories:

What is the Right Age for Kids to Have a Dog?


No comments

Post a Comment