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How Do I Prepare My Pet for Our New Baby?

23 April 2014

UK - Understandably cats and dogs can find a noisy new baby arriving at their family home very stressful. Vet charity PDSA advises the best way to help your dog or cat prepare for the arrival of a new baby is to start getting them used to the idea as soon as possible, and has put together some hints and tips to help.

Early in your pregnancy check your pet’s vaccinations, worming and flea treatments are up-to-date. Refresh your dog’s understanding of basic commands such as sit, stay and recall, so you can be sure he will stay still for short periods when told and there’s no likelihood of jumping up at his new family member.

As you are likely to have less time for your pet after the baby is born, gradually reduce the amount of fuss and attention you lavish on your pet throughout the pregnancy – a sudden noticeable drop in attention could be unsettling for them and could lead to bad behaviour.

If there are any rooms in the house that will become ‘pet free’ when baby is born, begin enforcing this well before the birth to help your pets acclimatise to the change.

Similarly bring cots, play pens, highchairs and suchlike into the home well in advance and supervise your pets while they take in the smells of the new equipment. The more familiar they are with the items the better as they won’t be so curious about them after your baby has arrived.

Another good idea is to create a den or provide a space your pet can retreat to when it all gets a bit too much. A cat climber in a quiet room is also useful.

A few weeks before your due date, start carrying around a ‘pretend baby’ – a doll in a baby blanket is ideal to get so your pet is used to the sight of this.

Reward your pet for being calm and relaxed when you are carrying the doll, but if they jump up just turn around and ignore them. Don’t punish your pet for inappropriate behaviour, or they will learn to associate the doll with unpleasant feelings.

When baby comes home for the first time, greet your pet with baby in a quiet room with no interruptions to give – make sure no-one interferes with this. A baby should never be left unattended with any pet, so install safety gates well in advance to keep dogs out of certain areas.

Cats can get through an open door very quickly and silently, so use a screen door or a tent that fits over the cot to prevent your cat from getting too close.

With careful preparation and consideration, your pets should know that they still have a secure place in the family.

For further information on pet health, click here.

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