Tips on Preparing Pets for Baby's Arrival
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Here are some ways to make the new meeting go as smoothly as possible.
- Start the transition process before the baby is born. Dr. Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian in Laguna Hills, Calif., suggests recording a crying baby and acclimating your pet to the noise. Also, teach your pet that the baby's crib or bassinet is off limits. For cats, line the baby's future sleeping area with tin foil, double-sided sticky tape or a ScatMat, which gives off a static pulse when touched. "Sometimes all it takes is one zap," Cruz says.
- Make sure your dog or cat has a comfortable place of its own that it can retreat to when it needs to get away from the inevitable noise and commotion (yes, your perfect child will wail annoyingly from time to time). "During the pregnancy, create a place that's their space," says Aaron Baar, an editor at UrbanHound.com, dog owner and father of three. That way, being sent to their space is "not a punishment, it's a comfort," he says. For cats, Cruz recommends wrapping a heating pad set on low in a towel and putting it where the cat sleeps.
- Get your pet checked out to make sure it's free of both internal and external parasites, Cruz advises.
- Once the baby is born, bring home something with the baby's scent on it for your pet to smell. Baar says his dog's reaction to his first child's scent was dramatic. "She bent down at my feet and was like, 'I get it, I'm going to take care of the kid.' "
- When she comes home from the hospital, let Mom enter the home without the child so she can greet the pet alone, Cruz suggests. Baar recommends introducing the pet to the baby on neutral territory, such as in the front yard. In his case, he used the hallway of his apartment building. Wherever you do it, make sure a dog is on a leash.
- Never, ever leave a dog alone with a baby, "no matter how marvelous the dog is," Cruz stresses. "I don't care if the dog has been around umpteen kids." Cruz says she's seen cases where a well-intentioned dog picked up a crying baby to take it to its mother and inadvertently harmed the child.