What can we do to get our pets ready for a new kid in the house?

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IMG_2146 When Alyssa sent us a question about getting her pet ready for their soon-to-arrive child, I knew I had to jump all over it! She asked:

So, any ideas or suggestions on getting kitty (or any pet) ready for the new baby? Olivia is a pretty chill cat but who knows how she may react to her non-furry new sibling….

I had grand dreams about Kali, our dog, and Jasper being immediate best friends. In creating said dreams, I momentarily forgot that Kali is by nature quite skittish, and suddenly bringing a tiny, squawking newborn into our home didn’t do the best things in the world for her nerves.

Initially, we tried bringing home blankets and shirts of Jasper’s from the NICU and letting Kali smell and sleep with them so she grew used to his scent, but it didn’t seem to do much for her. She would immediately leave whichever room we entered with him — and kept leaving for the first eight or so months of his life.

For his part, Jasper has been enamored with Kali as long as his eyes have been able to solidly focus on her. Once he was able to grab her tail, he did it constantly. As soon as he gained the ability to crawl, his goal eight times out of ten was Kali. Basically, as soon as he was able to stalk her around our apartment, he did — and he’s never stopped.

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Ultimately, my biggest piece of advice is to know your animal. If you know your dog is skittish and clingy, go out of your way to make sure he or she is still appreciated and gets to do the things they like to do — especially in those first few months. We made sure that one of us took Kali on walks every day, even the days when we were completely exhausted.

Also, try to facilitate a friendship, but don’t force it — Kali and Jasper finally started to get along when two things happened. The first is that he became old enough to understand what we meant when we asked him not to pull her tail/hit her face/etc., and the second is that he started walking, and could thus walk back and forth from Kali to where we keep the dog treats. For some reason, she’s just loved him ever since then.

What tips and ideas do you guys have? How did you get your pets used to your baby?

Comments on What can we do to get our pets ready for a new kid in the house?

  1. I don’t have any advice but I would like to commend you on not forgetting about your pets in such a transitional time in all of your lives. Having a baby is certainly a much-anticipated and momentous event in one’s life and it’s so easy to get caught up in it, but it’s a big change in your animals’ lives too and they don’t necessarily get a say in the matter. Depending on your relationship with the animal, it can be like introducing a new sibling.

  2. When I was pregnant with my daughter our two cats followed me EVERYWHERE! Once the wee girl was born our male was constantly within three feet of her all the time. They would nap together on opposite ends of the couch. Our little female wasn’t into the baby, so she just kept her space. We let both the cats sniff her when we came home and they just kind of dealt with it. Now the girl’s two and a half and we have another cat and they all get along and for the most part my daughter ignores the cats…unless one’s asleep on her blankie lol

  3. This might sound weird for non-pet type people, but when I would lie in bed at night with my big belly and my puppy dog next to me, I would talk to Angie (dachshund Jack Russell mix) about her new little sister and Angie would give my belly licks. I kept repeating the baby’s name over and over to Angie. Before we came home from the hospital my husband brought home the blanket and let Angie go wild sniffing it so she could get used to the baby scent. But I think the greatest thing we did was to put a dog bed in Natalie’s room so that when we are in there rocking her or changing diapers or whatever, Angie has a special place to go – maybe I’m making up feelings for her, but I really think she feels more included in this life change and less threated by the baby because she feels like she has a “place” in Natalie’s life. It worked for us. I think if Angie (who was a momma dog before we rescued her) would breastfeed Natalie if she could – she is super protective and loving towards Natalie. We’ll see how they get along once Natalie is no longer a lump and is more mobile…

    • I just had to chime in and say I have a dachshund Jack Russell mix also! We rescued him 6 months ago, and though I’m not pregnant yet, we do think about how he’ll react when the time comes…he always stops in his tracks when he hears a baby cry on tv, wonder what he will do with a real life baby. It sounds like you did a great job of preparing your doggie as much as you could. I wish you continued success 🙂

    • That is brilliant! My slightly neurotic dog is much calmer when she has a “place.” This applies to travel, or even when I spend long hours in the home office, I move her bed in there. Dogs like being near their people! Making a designated spot for her in the room where you will now be spending a lot of time is awesome, just so she can be near you more.

      And symbolically and possibly anthropomorphically, by creating a physical place WITH the baby you are showing her that the baby is not a replacement for her.

  4. I’ll be really interested to see if anyone has dealt with multiple dogs+kids. I have three dogs currently, and hopefully none of them will be going anywhere by the time we have kids. I’m not really worried about my big hound mix or even really my Boston terrier, but it’s my aging, kinda nutty bulldog I fret over. He doesn’t like when people get picked up, he attacks things that dangle (read: swings, rope swings, etc), and whenever he hears a baby laugh or cry online, he’s so intrigued. Oh, and last weekend he tried to hump a 8 year old girl. :/ I guess we’ll just have to do a lot training and prep-getting him used to smells, sounds, gestures, etc so he knows how we expect him to behave.

    • We have three dogs, a ferret, and four horses. When Eowyn was born my Mom who was dog sitting while we were in the hospital brought a blanket home…no one was interested. One piece of advice I got was they will miss you so make sure someone else is holding the baby when you come home. That way you can make a big deal ofvthem and not yell if they jump on you. If their first contact is you yelling it can start things off badly. All our animals reacted differently, but we are all one big happy family and everyone adjusted. The younger dog and the ferret are her favorites and they love her. The older dogs now ignore her unless she is eating, but are very protective when other dogs are around!

      • Not related, but I love that your daughter’s name is Eowyn! So beautiful 🙂

        (end geekout)

  5. You know how animals are always smelling each other’s behinds? Let your animal smell the baby’s diapered bottom a couple of times to demystify the baby. I’m fortunate that our kitty is pretty shy and at this point doesn’t care to interact with the baby (6 weeks old). She sniffed her almost daily for the first wee or two and now just ignores her. Boy will she be in for a surprise when the babe becomes mobile!

  6. Our friends introduced us to this idea when they had their daughter. Their large dog was not used to anything baby related, so they made sure to have all related items (crib, play toys, clothing, bottles, everything) set up and in the house months before baby came. They also bought a CD of baby noises, including such examples as laughs, tantrums, and night crying, and played it every day until the dog no longer paid nervous attention to the noises as much. Scheduled time for the pet every day is important too.

    In the end know your pets – our adopted dog does not behave properly around anyone under 4ft despite being loving to us and older people, and she is older herself which will take more training to correct, so we warn people ahead of time and keep her away from smaller kids. We have to keep this in mind for the baby and future playmates.

    • I agree with the “know your pets.” Our dog HATES when kids run past her or poke her. She half-assedly nipped at a child’s coat when the child was running circles around her. (Which could be a whole post of do you correct other people’s kids on how to behave around dogs, do you talk directly to the parent who knows nothing about dogs, how do you test if you dog is good around kids because you experiment with that! etc)
      HOWEVER I know my dog. She is SO food motivated (but still gentle enough) that if the child has a treat she will sit nicely and be best friends. So I just hand out dog treats to my friends’ kids.

  7. I have two dogs, and to get them used to the baby, we set up all the baby items, and turned them on so the girls could see them move, hear the music and get used to them. When I was still in the hospital with the baby, my husband brought home a wet diaper and a blanket so they could smell him. They were very protective of my belly when I was pregnant and I had them professionally trained before Jude came along, so I knew they would be okay. They’ve done fantastically, but it all comes down to knowing your dog(s).

  8. We have two big dogs and a cat. We spent a lot of time working with the dogs before the baby arrived to help them transition well. Sometimes just trying to think things through helped out a lot. For example we knew that family walks were going to be a way of life once baby was sturdy enough so we trained the dogs to go outside to do their pre-walk excited doggy dance routine. We also put them on a “Status reduction” program which mostly involved them not getting anything they wanted without doing something I asked them to do first.

    We also did the whole baby blanket sniff zone but the best advice I can give is to not make your baby off limits. Know your pet, but let them explore their new family member if they can. When we brought our son home we let the boys sniff him all over while we protected his face. And anytime the boys wanted to check him out we made the baby available. My bigger dog who is a horrible cat chaser and super playful LOVES our son and has almost reached nanny dog status! We’re getting close to crawling time and I plan on giving the dogs a place to escape to if the baby gets to be too much by putting a two foot tall blockade into one of the bedrooms.

    We didn’t even worry about the kitty and she was the one who reacted the most! She hid in the garage for three days and then one night while I was nursing our son in bed she came up and sniffed him. Ever since then she just hangs out the same as before!

  9. i love the dig treats part! my dog has since become best friends with my baby when she learned how to drop small pieces of food off her high chair (she is 18 months)to give to the dog. she also tears pieces off what ever she is eating to give to him! the dog now follows her around a lot! it took me awhile to train the dog not to eat anything from her hand unless it was offered (imagine 22 lbs toddler and a 100 lbs dog!). the nice thing was i got the dog from their grandfather who passed away, so the dog grew up knowing children and knew my children from birth!

    it all comes from knowing your dog. certain breeds work better around children than others. i would never leave a dog alone around a baby or a toddler even if you trust that dog completely! you never know what might happen!

  10. I love the idea of having all the baby stuff set up and the cd of baby noises! Has anybody done baby-dog intro with an extremely large dogs? We have a 2 yr old Neo mastiff that I’m a little nervouse about introducing to our baby when he/she arrives because of his size.

    • Some of my parent’s friends had a mastiff when their daughter was born. They were worried too due to her size… but Ursa totally became Protector Mommy Dog!

      I’m sure it depends on your pup’s personality, of course, but there’s a positive story for you.

    • My parents have a neo mastiff. He came along last, and was great with kids as a young dog (other than that he thought dangling feet were separate living entities). Once he hit puberty, he became overly protective of my little brother, and can’t be trusted around children. The vet suggested that he felt his place in the pack was threatened by children outside the immediate family. He’s almost 10 now and is definitely chilling out, but we were surprised to know that this is a somewhat common problem among mastiffs. I’m sure your dog will love your new baby, just be watchful when her friends start coming around.

      • Thanks! It’s nice to hear good news. I guess the other day my 1 friend that has a baby brought him over while I was gone and my husband said he did fine. Once the baby started crying the dog started crying and his tongue went nuts wanting to lick the baby. We’ve done obedience school and are going to head back at the end of the month just to brush up on some old stuff to make sure he’s well behaved. We also just got another book on Neos that is supposed to include baby interactions.

  11. Any ideas for cats? I have no worries about our dog who is very tolerant of our friends’ babies and toddlers. He lets them push, squeeze, poke, pull hair etc. He had no problems as we introduced one cat after another. BUT of our 4 cats we have a skittish/clingy one who will swat incoming cats and hide from guests. I never would have worried but our friend’s cat ATTACKS her baby – drawing blood. I could never give up any of our cats so, any preparation and introduction ideas for cats?

    • Maybe I’m stereotyping but cats can be bitches. With my old orange cat, we just didn’t let him around the little ones without supervision. The other cat stayed around long enough to get her tail pulled once and that was it. She usually just heads to another room when she hears little kids.

  12. When we brought home booger the dogs wanted nothing to do with him despite all our best efforts. We would carry around a doll and make sure they knew they couldn’t touch it and they did great with that. In fact they did so great that when my partner brought clothes with boogers scent home they sniffed it then walked off to lay down in their respective spots.

    Due to many reasons we had to adopt out our boston terrier but he never quite took to booger and our chihuahua is just now starting to be interested in him but she does it from a distance since booger can now roll very quickly in her direction and has close a few times to grabbing her fur. Luckily in the rare chance he catches her she is very patient.

  13. Our dog is very skittish and we were very worried. In the end, it went OK. She smelled our son’s blanket before he came home, and when he arrived, she was mostly just very curious. She seemed to accept him as part of the pack pretty quickly, though she didn’t seek him out much. When he really got going crying, she hid under the bed. But within a few months, she began to show more interest and go into his room to check on him, etc. It helped that we did a lot of walks as a family. She loved it whenever I got out the Baby Bjorn. It meant a walk for her! They REALLY began to bond when he began tossing food from the high chair, though. Now they are best friends, but she outweighs him significantly and sometimes she gets overly excited — just yesterday she knocked him over and it really scared him. So, it remains a balance.

    We were recommended an excellent book called Living with Kids and Dogs (or maybe Children and Dogs). It makes the point that the good relationship isn’t just about the dog being calm and taking abuse, but also about the child learning to respect the dog. It also makes the point that most children are bit my dogs NOT THEIR OWN. So, if they learn to gently abuse their own dog– lots of tail pulling etc — and their dog takes it, they might do this to other dogs will will be afraid and bite out of fear. So, it is important to teach our children to respect dogs.

    We also had to move the dog’s water and food bowl to a different place away from the baby, and we moved our doggie door, too.

    Mostly, our dog has done OK because we still try to walk her and play fetch with her. Mostly, our two “kids” are friends.

    Good luck!

  14. I’m a cat breeder, I dont have kids, but I’ve talked alot to people that have. And one thing I always hear is that if they had one cat often the cat got jellous and “attacked” the baby since the cat got less affection. And they solved it by getting one more cat so the cat didnt get lonely. As soon as they where two cats they totaly ignored the baby. Others that had more cats had no problem at all since the cats was more interested in playing that watching a baby sleep.

  15. My husband and i will start trying to concieve in about 3 months time. We have 2 dogs, my one i’m not concerned about but my husbands dog, an Aklaskan Malamute (he’s huge) is very aggressive towards children. We don’t take him out for a walk unless it’s night when no kids will be around and if we ever have friends over that have kids we have to keep him locked in the backyard. I’m scared about what will happen when we do have a baby. Hubby doesn’t seem too worried as his dog is getting to the end of it’s average lifespan(although not showing many signs of old age yet)and he thinks that by the time our baby is old enough to be ready to go outside to play the dog will have passed on. He thinks i’m being silly worrying about it before i’m even pregnant but it is something i think about alot.

  16. When we knew we wanted to start trying to conceive we adopted another kitty to keep our spoiled only kitty company. That took some adjusting but they cuddle with each other. Our baby’s due in mid-may and we’re almost done renovating the nursery and our new bedroom. We let the kitties into the nursery only when we’re there with them. Once baby is born we plan on letting her sleep in her nursery with the door shut but keeping our bedroom open so the kitties can still come in and have their time. I know it doesn’t work for co-sleepers, and I’m quite sick of people I know telling me I’ll want the baby in my room every night and that our plan won’t happen but I have to think of our 1st two “kids” and how to not alienate them. They’re indoor kitties in a small house and need their space too.

  17. My husband and I will begin to try to conceive (since I got seriously sick a few years again, everthing has to be under control) and curiously, one thing I am not concerned about is the cat. He is 14 years old in a few day (yess, I wish him his birthday, ridiculous I know) and we have a very exclusive relation since always. But he always accepted my loved ones and especially my husband. He is amazing with kids: if he feels the kid doesn’t mean ill, he won’t react even if his tail is torn apart. if the kid has bad intentions, he feels it and walks away (or give an advertissement without claws…). So I know I will rely on him during my pregrancy for good vibes and only hope that he’ll live long enough so that my children will actually enjoy having him around. I grew up with a siamese cat who was my first confident… Then again, it is a question of knowing one’s animal (and being lucky as well sometimes…)

  18. Our pooch Scarlett is quite the cuddler and we started testing out what she’s like with small people with my nephew (3 years old) and so long as she is aloud to cuddle too she seems fine. We’ll see how it is with baby soon enough but it HAS to work, my Scarlett is my friend protector and I would be devestated if I couldn’t keep her (oh yeah and she def. sleeps in our bed sigh)

  19. The cats ignored the baby for his first year of life. Occasionally my girl would climb in my lap while I was nursing, but that was just to be near me. The cats adjust to our son’s schedule. When he naps they demand petting. When I am with our son they are out of sight.

    Son’s relationship with the cats changes every day. They will let him pet them, but only for a short time. They were getting used to his rough petting style when he started that high pitched screeching thing and he knows they will react to it, so he does it all the time. They are really good pets and I wouldn’t put up with half of what they do.

    So, my advice. Give your pets lots of attention. Praise them when they do well (not scratching out toddlers eyes while he is screaming in their faces and patting too hard) and we bought them a huge cat condo. It’s not aesthetically pleasing, but it is a way for them to be in the room but out of reach (until son learns to climb the second tier). They also have the kitchen and several closets that they can access but he can’t so that they can ‘get away’.

    And yes, we are working on the screeching and patting over and over again, but eighteen month-olds have poor impulse control.

  20. Our three cats relationship with our son is constantly changing. When he was first born, one cat was seriously afraid of him. Wouldn’t come anywhere near, would jump and run at the slightest sound or movement.

    This same cat was also the first one to really warm up to him and put up with petting, snuggling, etc.

    The other two cats liked him more before he could move or do much on his own. Back then he was a handy cat heating device.

    Then he was the thing cat nightmares are made of.

    Now all three cats put up with him to some degree and will just up and leave if he gets bothersome. The first cat is still the only one to actively seek out his attention.

    Before he was born I was so worried about how the cats would adapt. Especially because our cats always slept in our bed and we planned on bed-sharing with the baby and everyone says NO PETS IN BED WITH BABY.

    So I bought a bunch of pet beds to scatter around the house. The cats seriously dig them.

    But they still creep into bed with us sometimes, taking up all the foot room.

    Its never been an issue with cosleeping.

    Oh, he’s never been scratched or bit and the cats have never acted aggressively towards him. Our cats are pretty good self regulators and if they don’t like something they just leave.

    • I have a super cuddly, often needy cat. I’m not at all worried about him being aggressive, but more about him being overly affectionate with a small human who can’t shove him away. Does anyone have a cat who sleeps in all your baby’s gear and/or with your baby? I’m worried about the “cat stole a baby’s breath” problem.

      The cat’s not shy about demanding attention, so I don’t think there’s anything we could do to make him feel left out or unloved.

      • One of my old cats once decided sleeping on my face would be a good idea and I’ve noticed that even my younger cats are intrigued by breathing, so I would not let the cat sleep with the baby, I know they make those netting tops for cribs to keep baby in and I would think they would keep kitty out, or a safer bet have the door closed.

  21. We have a cat and set up the bassinet way in advice in the lounge so we could tell the cat no, then we moved it into the bed room and filled it with tinfoil and balloons. He knew I was pregnant wouldnt lie on my belly always beside it what no. When we came home from the hospital the cat looked at me and freaked so I put bubs down walked strait to the fridge and got out some ham and gave it strait to the cat gave him a cuddle and then he was fine. We let the cat have a sniff around bubs and he was fine I always made sure though that if the cat wanted a little attention I would put Evie down and pick the cat up all he wanted was a 30 second cuddle nd then went off happy. Annoyingly that cat died (hit by a car) we now have a little kitten who is a terror drives me nuts is scratchy spazy and nut but is awesome with Evie doesnt bite her scratch her curls up with her when we are giving her a bottle and is just great with her. If you want a happy pet treat them like you would a toddler make time for them even if you have to leave bubs complaining for 1 min

  22. Our cat was quite vicious and would bite our ankles (purely in play) if we walked around the house naked or in shorts. I was freaking out at the thought of her attacking the baby. Now that our baby has been here for a few months the cat has changed to a different animal. She realizes that the baby runs the house now (not her) and she has stopped attacking us when we walk by. She is always at the extreme opposite end of the house from the baby and seems to pretend he does not exist. I still would not leave her alone with the baby, though.

  23. I have 2 Presa Canario/Mastiff mixes that i hand delivered and raised. They are 2 years old and So Excited about what my hubby and i loving refer to as ‘Their New Baby’. My dogs Love kids and get so excited whenever i walk into the room =)

  24. I haven’t had my kidlet yet, but I’m planning on getting the crib and supplies ahead of time so the mewies know what’s off limits (crib mainly.) Then slow introduction. Bringing something home that smells like baby ahead of time sounds good. Trim their claws well before hand, and keep an eye on them. I’ve been having redirected aggression problems with my cats and used Feliway (happy pheromone air freshener thing) and am going to get a refill about a month pre-baby, and make sure to keep it stocked for a few months. I would try to keep other changes in the house to a minimum, and keep kitty time separate from baby time. I’m going to try having the baby in our bedroom, but if it bugs our cats, I’ll put him in a separate room. Watch for stress behavior, so that you’ll have an idea of what might be coming. If necessary there are other herbal remedies you can add to their water, and anti-depression/anxiety meds you can get from a vet.

  25. I am mostly confident and only sometimes nervous about how our 2 dogs will react when baby comes in September. Our older dog (a 60 lb. rescue) loves kids and is very tolerant of ear pulling, tail pulling, and hugs. Our 1 year old goldendoodle also loves kids, but is more excitable. I’d be afraid he would accidentally hurt baby rather than intentionally, but hopefully he’ll calm down as he gets older.

    We are doing as others suggested – setting up the nursery, spending time in there, playing tracks of babies crying/laughing, and exposing them to baby toys that make noise/light up. They seem uninterested in everything so far. Fingers crossed!

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