The birth of a new family member is one of life’s greatest moments. However, this extraordinary occasion can leave your pet confused or scared. According to the Pawlicy Advisor, 47.2% of Colorado households have a dog, cat, bird, or other critter waiting at home. If you fall within these statistics, use our guide. Here are a few tips to help introduce your baby to your four-legged friends here in Centennial. 

Schedule a Veterinary Exam

Image via Flickr by mliu92 Licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

The first step to a successful introduction is to lay the groundwork well in advance. Before the baby comes home, take care of routine check-ups. It’s crucial that your veterinarian runs a series of medical tests on your pets as soon as you find out you’re expecting.

For example, test your cats for toxoplasmosis because it can affect your pregnancy. According to the Mayo Clinic, mothers exposed to this common parasite could pass the infection on to infants in the womb. Congenital toxoplasmosis may cause serious complications, like a miscarriage. Babies may also experience seizures, jaundice, and eye infections after birth.

Other types of parasites can also be dangerous to humans. Your pet’s doctor will deworm them and take a stool sample for testing. Make sure their vaccines are up to date, too, and have the tech trim your pet’s nails to prevent scratches.

Hire a Pet Trainer

Hiring a professional pet trainer can help you address unwanted behaviors like jumping, excessive barking, and even marking. Start working with your animals well before your baby’s due date. Depending on their general temperament and how problematic the behavior is, you may need to start right away.

If your pet has shown any aggression toward children or adults, enlist the help of an expert trainer. You may also want to contact your local American College of Veterinary Behaviorist to learn about potential medical conditions that may contribute to your pet’s negative actions, like arthritis.

Set Up the Nursery

Start laying a solid foundation for pet-baby harmony by getting your dog or cat used to the nursery. This new family member comes with unfamiliar smells, like diaper ointment, and makes all kinds of strange noises. All of these changes are likely to make your pets anxious.

Give your pet plenty of time to adjust to the new environment. Unpack the baby’s new furniture and set up the nursery as soon as possible. Introducing them to these permanent fixtures before your child comes home gives you the chance to teach pets which areas are off-limits.

The ASPCA strongly recommends that you discourage cats from sleeping in your infant’s crib. Infants and felines can certainly co-exist harmoniously. However, a heat-seeking kitty may cuddle too close to your newborn’s face, making it difficult to breathe. Some parents use a motion-sensing pet sprayer to keep cats out of restricted areas.

Introduce the Idea of a Baby

It is possible to introduce pets and their new human siblings before you bring your infant home from the hospital. The blanket trick does seem to help, especially with dogs. Letting Fido sniff a clothing item the baby wore at the hospital, followed by a treat, may reinforce a positive association with your infant’s scent. However, it isn’t a cure-all, and other pets, like birds, won’t react in the same way.

Newborns are noisy, and the only way they can convey hunger or discomfort is by crying — sometimes loudly. This commotion can be overwhelming to your pet’s sensitive ears, making them feel frustrated or agitated. To avoid this, try playing common infant sounds at home while your pets are relaxing. Recordings of baby sounds coupled with affection can show your pets that the noise is no reason to get upset.

Hold the First Meeting in a Neutral Space

Once your and the baby are safely home, it’s time to officially introduce your new family member. Allow the pair to meet in a safe, neutral place, like in the front yard of your house. Make sure you are calm and reassuring and take it slow. There’s no reason to rush either family member.

Make sure to have a dedicated pet spotter to keep an eye on your pet at all times during this hectic moment. If you have more than one pet, enlist a buddy watcher or kennel your dogs or cats and introduce them to your bundle of joy one at a time. Keep alerts for your pet’s warning signs of fear and aggression, so you can remove them from the situation before it becomes an issue.

Most pets provide ample warning signs of a bite. Your dog may communicate fear or uncertainty by freezing, stiffening, or looking away, while a cat may flick its ears, stiffen its tail, or even show its teeth. It’s easy to misinterpret an animal’s intentions, too. According to the American Kennel Club, when a dog licks its lips, it may not be signaling a desire to kiss your infant. Instead, this action could indicate discomfort with the situation.

Make Time for Pets

If you’re like most new parents, you’ll probably find yourself caught in a love triangle between your fur babies and your child. This exciting, exhausting time comes with many changes, and it’s easy to forget about the needs of your four-legged friends during this transition.

Remember your faithful pal, and dedicate a few minutes to doing one of your dog’s favorite activities, like going for a hike or your family can head to Cherry Creek State Park. It has a fantastic fenced, off-leash dog park off South Entrance Road. Set a timer if that helps keep you on track if you need to. Carving out some special time with your pet will make life more enjoyable for everyone. 

So, there you have it. . Do you think our suggestions will work for you? Did we forget your best strategy — one we should share with other Colorado parents? If we did, let us know! Then, drop us a line so we can update our guide with your recommendations.