Pets and babies can be very compatible but there a few precautions that you can take to make the transition go easier. If you are pregnant and have a cat, you should avoid changing the cat litter due to the risk of toxoplasmosis. This is a rare disease but can cause serious birth defects. The parasite can be found in the feces of cats who eat raw meat, birds or mice. If no one else can change the litter, you should wear disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and water afterwards. Change the cat litter frequently and feed your cat dry or canned cat food. Keep your cat indoors and avoid stray cats. Do not get a new cat while pregnant.
Here are things you can do before baby arrives to prepare your pet:
- Make sure your pet has had a recent health exam and updated vaccinations by your veterinarian. Spayed or neutered pets tend to be calmer and less likely to bite. If your pet has fear and anxiety issues, they may need assistance from an animal behavior specialist. Train your pet to remain calmly on the floor beside you before being invited onto your lap. Enrolling your pet in a training class can help control your dog’s behavior humanely.
- Encourage friends with babies to visit you. Let your pets hear a baby’s cry to accustom them to the noise. Help make these positive experiences by offering treats or playtime. Removable gates or even a screen door can keep pets out of baby’s room but still allow them to see what is happening. Carrying around a baby doll or taking one on walks with your dog will help your pet get used to baby routines. Put baby lotion on your skin to help your pet get familiar with the new smells.
- After the baby is born, it is very helpful to have your partner take home a blanket or something that has baby’s scent for your pet to investigate. Before you come home from the hospital, try to have someone take your dog on a long walk to burn up extra energy. After you get home from the hospital, have someone else take the baby while you give your pet a warm welcome. Then you can have your pet sit next to you while you hold the baby and allow your dog to get accustomed to the new scents. Keep a respectful distance between dog and baby and gradually allow your pet to get closer and closer. With a cat, hold baby nearby to offer an opportunity to smell and talk calmly to your pet.
- Stay calm during the introductions and have a quiet environment without a crowd of people. Avoiding yelling at your pet if they get too close for comfort. Be firm but don’t raise your voice. Frightening your pet can create a negative association with your baby. Give lots of praise and have treats on hand to reward good behavior. Do your best to keep regular routines to help your pet adjust. Grandpa or other friends or relatives can be recruited to take your dog out for walks. As your baby gets older and becomes more active, be sure to have baby and pet interactions supervised by a parent.
- Find time to spend one on one time with your pet, which can help you relax as well!
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give me a call or send me an email.
Diane Erdmann RN BSN IBCLC
Breastfeeding Support & Supplies