NHS Spotlight: Introducing Pets to Children

By on June 16, 2014

I’ve painted the nursery and the wife has picked out a crib. In about five-and-a-half months, there will be a new little one in the family.

Being first-time parents, we’ve got a lot to learn, but one of the first concerns I had was the reaction our cat, Ash, will have to the new baby. Ash has been the only one around for two years and she’s never been at a loss for attention. With a new baby, things will certainly change, and we all know what kitties tend to do when they are unhappy…

Knowing what challenges I might face, as many expecting parents will want to be aware of, is important. This week’s Nebraska Humane Society Spotlight article includes information they provide to new parents with animals. We tend to think of adoption and training and all of the other things pet-related as the ONLY service the NHS provides, but being educators is near the top of the list also. For information like this, and much more, be sure to visit the NHS Web site when questions arise.

The following information is available online and in a paper handout that the Nebraska Humane Society’s Training and Behavior Department provides to those who are in need of some guidance:

Bringing Home a New Baby

The arrival of a new baby is an exciting time for every parent. It brings a lot of changes to a household not only for other human family members, but for a pet family member as well. You may be wondering what to do and the following information will help you and your growing family adapt to new additions.

How do things change for my pet?

Pets view the world a little differently than humans. They rely quite a bit on all their senses especially scent and hearing. Your pet can identify you and your home by its familiar smell. The familiar smell and noise level of your home are comforting to your pet. So all the new smells and sounds a baby brings can disrupt the pet’s familiar picture of home. In addition many new parents are very busy with the new baby and other life activities and the pet may experience less interactive time with his people then before the baby arrived.

How can I help my pet deal with the changes?

With a little patience, work and love, your pet will accept the new baby into the family. Before the baby arrives, use this checklist to prepare:

  • Get your pet used to some of the smells a baby brings to the home. Rub baby lotion or powder on your hands and let the pet investigate. Praise and treat the pet while he is experiencing the new smell.
  • If possible, tape record the sounds of a baby and play it for the pet. Remember to praise and treat the pet while listening to the baby sounds.
  • If you can, “borrow” a baby from a friend or relative to practice a real life session. When the pet is around the baby, praise and treat the pet. Talk happily so the pet associates positive things with the baby’s presence.

Once the baby has arrived, make sure to do these things:

  • Don’t exclude the pet. Let him be around when you are feeding, bathing or changing the baby.
  • Smile and talk happily to the pet. If all the pet hears is negative around the baby like “no,” “don’t” or “get down”, the pet will associate negative things with the baby’s presence.
  • Schedule interactive play time with the pet to avoid him getting lost in the commotion. This time should be without the baby.
  • Provide a special place for your pet to retreat to like his kennel. Place soft bedding material and some toys there.
  • Try to keep the pet’s routine as normal as possible, make necessary changes to their routine long before the baby arrives. This includes retraining the pet to any areas that will be off limits once the baby comes. Examples might include your lap or the nursery if you choose.

Follow these tips and hopefully your pet and baby will act more like siblings than rivals. Again, for more information like this, make sure to check out the Nebraska Humane Society’s Web site- it’s chock full of helpful information about training, behavior and much more.

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