Getting pets ready for a new baby

Animals 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 these guidelines:

1. 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 in the crib to discourage him from claiming this cozy bed for his special napping spot.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

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