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Introducing dogs and cats to baby

By Christian Healthcare Ministries
Introducing Dogs and Cats to Baby

Dogs and cats can have a special place in the hearts and lives of families. Some are protective and territorial. Others love just about everyone but mail carriers. Pets can be aloof and independent or prone to stealing unattended food and ruining perfectly good shoes and furniture.

Whatever their disposition, most pets are eager to please. They can learn to “Sit! Stay!” and “Be a good dog or kitty!” when there’s a new baby around. However, preparing pets for a newborn requires careful consideration. Before introducing pets to your baby, you’ll need new barriers, boundaries, and ground rules.

Stewardship of all creatures, great and small

“The righteous care for the needs of their animals.”

– Proverbs 12:10, NIV

The kindness we’re called to as Christians extend to the animals in our lives. As some of God’s most sociable creatures, pets are worthy companions. Beyond species and breed names, pets humbly accept their given names, whether it’s Boots, Bowser, or something more biblical.

Pets can model unconditional love. They’re quick to forgive, whether you step on a paw, scold them or leave them home alone. They coax smiles, entertain with antics and nudge you to get out of bed or go for a walk. The health benefits of pets range from protecting hearts and comforting special-needs children to heroic rescues. It’s not easy, but merging pets and babies is usually worth the effort.

Caring for cats and dogs, while protecting babies’ safety

Are you starting a family or expecting? Prepare pets and toddlers for the baby, too, so everyone’s ready.

Most pets resist change. They may feel sad, stressed, or confused and act out by shredding pillows or leaving smelly surprises on the rug. Ask your vet about preparing your dog or cat for the new baby. Follow these tips, for starters:

  • Avoid strays. Outdoor cats and babies-to-be don’t mix. If you’re pregnant, avoid roaming kitty cats. Their “catch of the day” dining habits can create health risks, including infections, which endanger unborn babies.
  • Ease into things. Several weeks before baby’s arrival, arrange nursery furniture, play baby videos and start using baby powder, detergent and soaps. New sights, scents, and sounds will become familiar. Teach your pet to avoid baby furniture and surfaces. Foil, sticky tape, and certain scents may help. If relocating a litterbox or doggie bed, move it slowly – a little each day – or pets may return to “mark” their spot.
  • Teach new routines. Two months before birth, begin new pet routines, from feeding and grooming to exercise, playtime and sleep. Invest in big, comfy pet crates where pets can sleep at night or take timeouts. They’ll feel safe and secure.
  • Pet training. Teach essential commands, such as “sit,” “stay,” “heel” and “crate.” Enhance pets and babies’ safety by hiring a trainer or trying obedience school, videos, or online dog training courses. Ask your vet for referrals.

“The righteous care for the needs of their animals.” – Proverbs 12:10 (NIV)

Introducing cats, dogs, and babies

After you’ve welcomed your newborn into the world and you’re headed home, have someone safely crate or corral dogs or cats. When you’re ready, greet pets alone in a quiet room. Leave baby-scented tees behind for curious pets to investigate until you’re ready to introduce your dog or cat to the baby.

When it’s time for introductions, have an adult keep your pet seated near the baby, safely restrained on a short leash. Give a reward if your pet stays patient and gentle. If the pet isn’t fearful or agitated, let them move a bit closer, using caution. Gentle pets can even give a baby a careful nudge or sniff. Keep early encounters short, slow and gradual.

Signs your dog or cat is jealous of baby

Pets can feel lonely or neglected when babies are around. Watch for signs your cat or dog is jealous of the newborn, such as:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Misbehaving
  • Excessive meowing or barking
  • Sulking, hiding, or shyness
  • Excessive grooming
  • Changes in eating patterns or digestion

Give TLC and reward good behavior as you gently but firmly teach. Talk with vets and trainers for tips and training help.

Babies’ safety comes first when pets are around

Little hands and paws can co-exist safely if everyone knows and follows the new rules. Teach children about pet safety, and never leave pets and children alone. Have a responsible adult supervise dogs, cats, and children. If pets are aggressive or misbehave around children, ask your vet about other options.

Keep doors closed while baby sleeps, and install protective gates around your home. Don’t let pets sleep or cuddle with babies. Pets love warmth, but fur and soft obstructions can hinder a baby’s breathing and safe sleep.

At feeding or dinnertime, teach pets not to beg for table scraps or wait for high-chair windfalls. Learn more about staying healthy around pets and pets and babies’ safety.

What should your baby’s name be?

Take our quiz to find the perfect name for your new bundle of joy.

Christian Healthcare Ministries
Christian Healthcare Ministries and its members help carry the load for their brothers and sisters in Christ, reflecting the spiritual values outlined in Galatians 6:2.