Animals and Human Babies
and babies can be great together, if the proper
precautions are taken. A new baby means major life
changes for everyone in the family. Help your companion
animal prepare for this blessed event by following
- Set up the nursery
as soon as possible. Let your animal explore the
room during this process. Consider placing a small
battery-operated motion detector (sold at Radio
Shack) in the crib to discourage him from claiming
this cozy bed for his special napping spot.
- Introduce your animal
to the new scents that he will experience once
the baby is home by using some of the powders,
soaps and lotions you will be using on the baby.
- At least one month
before the baby's arrival, establish any necessary
changes in your animal’s routine. For example,
since cats like to cuddle, it is not advisable
to allow the cat in the newborn's room when the
baby is sleeping, so now is the time to close
the door and to teach your cat that it is off-limits.
- To get your animal
used to the sights and sounds of the baby's room,
invite friends with babies to visit. If that isn't
possible, try to obtain an audio tape of a baby
crying. Baby sounds may be the most frightening
aspect of having a baby around for everyone. Try
to desensitize him gradually to this aspect of
baby's presence in the home.
- Before bringing
the newborn home, bring home an unwashed piece
of your baby's clothing for your animal to smell.
Our companion animals identify us primarily through
the sense of smell, not sight.
- Once the baby is
home, try to keep your animal's routine as close
to normal as possible. This means regular meal
times and play sessions. Don't wait until baby
is asleep to play with your pet. If he gets praise
and attention when baby is in the room, he will
associate the new member of the family with good
times, not competition for attention.
Be patient, animals
need time to adapt. If your animal’s behavior
is a little erratic at first, remember that in spite
of all your careful preparations, this still is
a big change for all members of the family. Eventually,
everyone will settle in and your baby will grow
up with the advantage of having the unconditional
love and devotion of a companion animal. Your
child may also be more empathetic, a quality he or she will carry into adulthood.
If you would
like to work with a Wisconsin Humane Society behaviorist
one-on-one regarding this behavior topic, please
call 414-431-6173 to schedule a consultation.