Pets And Babies: How To Introduce The New Arrival

04/02/2016 6:30 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Image by Erin Vey via Getty Images
A baby girl sits against a Great Dane on a bed.

For the past couple of years you have been the doting mother of an adorable fur baby. They are the apple of your eye, your companion on the couch and are totally allowed on the foot of the bed. (OK, by 'foot' we mean 'next to your face', but hey.)

Except things are about to change. You're about to (gasp) introduce a human baby into the household, and unfortunately, it's not as if you can sit your cat or dog down for a good heart-to-heart and explain to them how things are going to go down from now on.

So how can you prepare, not only for your pets sake, but your own?

"I think when you have an existing dog or cat in the household, probably the same things apply for both," Eloise Bright, veterinarian at Love That Pet told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Before you bring the baby home, there are a few things you can get them used to.

"Babies obviously smell funny, they make a lot of noise and often change their routine, which is going to have an impact on the whole household.

"But for your pet, it's going to also affect things like all of a sudden the cat isn’t going to be allowed into a certain room in the house, or the dog is not allowed to sleep on the bed or on the couch anymore.

"I think if you try to introduce that change before the baby comes, it's much less stressful for the pet, and could result in them getting on a bit better as well."

Not that your pet and child shouldn't form a healthy relationship. In fact, studies have shown there are numerous benefits to a child growing up with a pet -- it just might make take a while for your furry friend to adjust to the changes. One of which is smell.

"Pets can get overwhelmed by the smell of a baby," Bright said. "So it's not a bad idea to try and introduce them to some of the smells before they arrive.

"Of course, I'm not talking about milk and poo! But things like nappies and powder.

"I do want to point out that pets will most likely get on with the baby better than most people think. There are heaps of added benefits, such as Mum might be home more often, or you might take the dog out with the pram and baby, so it will get more walks.

"A lot of it just has to do with the introduction and getting the pet used to the change in routine and the new smells.

"So if Mum is in hospital with bub for a couple of days, why not bring a small blanket home and introduce that to the cat or dog? Just to prepare them for what's about to happen."

cat and baby

Just chillin'

So -- is there a possibility your pet will actually be jealous of your newborn?

"Jealousy is a bit of a complicated emotion, I think," Bright told HuffPost Australia.

"Dogs and cats, they tend to live a bit more in the moment. They may not have that complicated feeling of 'mum now loves something else more than me.'

"I think sometimes that’s what people think, but it's more to do with the disruption to their routine, or that something that may have gotten them attention or affection in the past, now doesn't work. That can upset them.

"For instance, if previously when they jumped up on the couch with Mum and got cuddles, but now, they are told to get down on the floor because Mum is busy breastfeeding -- I wouldn't say that was jealousy, I would say it's more of a 'what's going on?'."

According to Bright, routine is particularly important for cats, which she describes as "little OCD people."

"Cats love routine," Bright said. "They like the same things to happen at the same time, all the time. They like to be fed at the same time or cuddled at certain time of day, and generally to keep that routine as much the same as possible."

Of course, while this might be difficult to do when there is a newborn in the mix, Bright says there are things you can do before the arrival of your baby to ease the transition -- particularly when it comes to blocking off rooms.

"A lot of people don't like to let cats into the baby's room because of those stories of cats smothering them while they sleep," Bright said.

"Personally I think that's more to do with cats liking to crawl up to something nice and warm, but regardless, it's understandable.

"Get the cat used to the fact it will no longer have access to that room. Alternatively, you can buy those mozzie-net type things to drape over the crib to keep cats out."

Bright also points out cats are more smell-orientated than dogs, so, again, bringing home something from the hospital that smells like the baby could help.

"Especially for anxious or nervous cats who struggle to cope when new people come over, or if you bring in new furniture," Bright said.

"Alternatively a pheromone product could help.

"You know how you see cats rub their faces against a pillow? It's because they are trying to make it smell like cat, because the smell makes them happy.

"So something like Feliway could assist in calming them down and feeling more at home."

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