By Diana Guerrero
This is one of the more misunderstood situations encountered. Unfortunately many animals, after having had run of the household for years, often get the boot after a new baby arrives. What can you do to help integration? Can you keep the animal and child together without disaster? These are some of the topics discussed in this article.
Many couples are now waiting to have children later in life. This trend has been accompanied by animals being kept as surrogates in many households until the child arrives. Many times the animal is tossed outside or kept isolated from the new child and the goings on surrounding the arrival of the new family member. This creates confusion, chaos and trauma for all involved.
Animals do have feelings and emotions. We cannot always understand or communicate effectively across to different species but respect, compassion and understanding are some important components to use in almost every situation. There are many worries that come with having a new baby, and there are hormonal changes, lifestyle changes, additional stress and many other types of problems that come with the new bundle of joy.
Here is the list of considerations to start with. You can expand this list to include as much as you want!:
START PLANNING EARLY
GET THE FACTS
START PLANNING EARLY
The first step to dealing with this situation is when you find a baby will be entering into your lifestyle! This should happen just after you find out you or your significant partner is pregnant! You will need to discuss the concerns, do some research and develop some strategies to handle the integration successfully.
Animals are like children in many ways. They are curious, playful, and often more rambunctious and persistent over things than we are. These normal behaviors can be a danger to any child. Most children under the age of 12 do not have the skill or the patterns to successfully deal with an animal. You as a parent must understand this and adjust accordingly.
Reasonable expectations are what you need to look at first. What is the household like now? Will the rules change completely? Since this will be confusing for the animal and hard to deal with, are there areas that can remain consistent and only minor adjustments that need to be made instead?
Is the animal under control? If you have a beast that dominates your household or you, then you can expect more problems than not. Training for you and the pet is advisable. You will need some special work geared for baby too. There are some various questions to ask.
New baby households will have to consider some very different questions: Will the dog be walked next to the stroller and need training to do this before the baby comes home? Will the pets be banned from certain rooms prior to the baby coming home? (If so, you will need to train this well in advance of arrival) How can the pets be introduced while remaining under control? How can you reinforce the baby as being positive instead of creating jealousy or a negative association? Will their be problems if the baby and the pets decide to share toys? Or won’t share toys?
In the early stages of pregnancy and planning, both parents should make the time to go to animal school just as you will make the commitment to go to baby school. Later the mother-to-be may not be able to be so physically active but the skills acquired in class are critical to proper control and safety with a new baby or child in the house.
If the animal is aggressive over food or toys you MUST find a good animal behaviorist to help you address this problem. Sometimes the animal might just be overly hyperactive or out of control which are other matters you may want to seek professional help with. It may be a good idea to plan to do so anyway.
Make time for both your spouse, and for animals in the household once the new child arrives. Things will be very hectic and stressful and YOU will need a break. Grandmas and Grandpas, neighbors, and other family members might be interested in assisting you with the baby or with walking the dog or playing with the cat or other animals. Take advantage of any offers or hire a pet professional like a dog walker, pet-sitter, or something similar to assist you.
Some concern is necessary when adding a new baby to the household. Children should NEVER be left unattended with an animal. Accidents such as suffocation, injury by curiosity, or from playful invitations can happen. Babies do not have the physical control to roll away from a cat that may lie on it or in front of their face; A playful paw can create injury; And jealousy or predatory behavior in an unruly animal or hybrid can even create worse problems.
Baby gates, monitors and restraint are some strategies to use; Training classes, professional help and reading are some others. It is strongly suggested that the normal routine be kept with an animal. If they sleep in your room, keep them there instead of throwing them outside to another lifestyle and isolation or abandonment.
GET THE FACTS
Properly assess your concerns and talk them over with someone who really knows. Wives-tales concerning women not cleaning cat boxes while pregnant and disease transmission from animals are misunderstandings. Yes, toxoplasmosis is a concern from litterboxes and you should be careful but most women contract it from gardening!! Most household animals are in good health and not as great a risk to the baby as other humans or children are for the transmission of disease or germs!!
When introducing the baby, there are a few tips to consider. First, while the mother is away at the hospital, bring home a blanket or wrap that has the baby’s scent on it to let the household pets smell. When it is time for baby to come home, make sure the animals have been active and are worn out before you come back with the baby. For instance, take the time to run the dog in the park or play with the cat until they tire and lose some of their excess energy.
When arriving, first come in and greet the animals and get them under control. Use behavior strategies or mild restraint and then switch with mom and let her do the same thing while you watch the baby. This is especially important since the animals have not seen her for a few days! After you have both greeted the animals, one person will bring in the baby while the other one keeps the animals calm and under control.
Have mom and baby seated and let the pets investigate. Keep things calm and allow a brief encounter, then get on with normal activities as soon as the pets are done sniffing and greeting. Using the leash as slight restraint so the dog can’t jump may be a good idea. They will want to sniff and look and will be excited about the new addition to the family.
Yes, integration of a new baby to the household can be successful if planned. Use your judgment or get guidance from a professional. With careful planning, monitoring, and by keeping your normal activities and lifestyle, this gradual introduction will help create a stable environment for all of you to get along despite the chaos of having the new addition to the family!