If you’ll be bringing home a new baby soon, it’s time to start getting your pet ready for it.
If you’re pregnant, there’s a good chance your dog or cat already knows something’s changed. Waiting until your baby is ready to come home is far too late to start the introductions, though.
Everyone’s life will change with a new child in the home–yours and your pet’s. It’s easy to focus on taking care of the human lives in the house, but remember to keep your pet’s in mind too. They’re just as affected by your baby’s arrival as you are, so get them ready for the big day ahead of time.
1. Brush Up on Basics
If you have a dog, make sure they’re comfortable with training basics like sit, stay and “drop it.” With the new smells and sounds a baby brings, your dog will be excited, anxious or even scared. Make sure they’re able to stay in control, even in stressful situations.
If you have a hard time training your dog, consider enrolling in obedience classes, even if they’re adults. It’s never too soon to start going back over the basics. In fact, the earlier you incorporate training time during your pregnancy, the better.
2. Introduce “Baby Things”
It might feel odd, but now’s the time to start introducing your pet to things like nursery items, sounds and toys. Your pet’s world is about to change, but you can lessen the blow by getting them used to it early on.
As you start setting up the nursery, slowly allow your pet to explore the area under close watch. Let them sniff around, but make sure they keep their distance. Your cat should never be able to jump into the crib. Your dog should always keep all feet on the floor and excitement levels low. Make sure they know to respect the nursery.
Some expecting parents also introduce baby noises to their animals in advance. Playing a recording of a baby crying can be a great way to desensitize your pet, for example. Teach them that those noises are nothing to fear or get excited about.
Other items, like toys or bottles, should be introduced to your pet. Most importantly, teach them not to play with or lick any baby items. Start leaving rattles or dolls on the floor, for instance, and train your pet to leave them alone. Adding this to their basic training can work wonders down the road.
3. Create a Pet-Only Space
Your pet has feelings, too, and some of them might include fear or anxiety once the baby arrives. Your cat or dog is used to being able to roam or sleep wherever they want. Once that changes, they need to have their own space to retreat from all the chaos.
Set up a corner for dogs with their crate, toys and bed. For cats, consider placing a climbing tower in a room your baby won’t spend much time in. By keeping these spaces separate and comfortable for your pet, they’ll always have a place to relax when the sounds and smells become a bit too much.
4. Change Routines
Your pet’s routine is about to change just as much as yours is. Instead of turning their world upside down when your baby comes home, ease them into it. Decide when their feeding time will be, and transition over to that schedule. Consider when walks or playtime will be after delivery.
Sleeping arrangements might also change. If so, get your pet used to their new beds or rooms well in advance. If they’re used to sleeping with you and no longer will be, slowly ease them into the new routine. Start in small doses by leaving your pet in their new space for short spans of time at first and slowly increasing.
Who look more surprised in this video — the babies or the cats?:
5. Set Boundaries
While you don’t want to exclude your pet once the baby comes, you do need to set clear boundaries. Use baby gates or screen doors instead of closing doors off completely. Doing so will keep your pet at a safe distance while allowing them to still feel included.
Start incorporating these boundaries as early as possible. Use lots of praise and treats during this time so your pet associates the distance with positive experiences.
Also consider installing a net above your baby’s crib if you have a cat. Over time, though, most of these boundaries should be able to come down once your pet is calm, confident and used to the new life you’ve brought home.