How to prepare your cat or dog for the arrival of your new baby
As you make your preparations for the new arrival, don’t forget to spare a thought for some important family members – your four-legged friends.
Make sure Spots doesn't feel left out when you bring home your newborn baby by introducing your dog (or cat) to the idea of a baby while you're still pregnant. (iStock)
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Your special friend – the one you always do fun things with – is ignoring you and has suddenly started giving all her attention to a very small creature that makes strange noises and has no fur. This could well be your cat or dog’s feelings when you come home from the hospital with your brand new baby.

The good news is that this scenario can be avoided with a bit of forethought, some planning and a few simple measures. 


How are you preparing your pets for bringing your newborn home? Of if you have kids already, how did your pets react to the new addition to your family? Send you stories and comments to chatback@parent24.com and we may publish them!

No cat has ever been known to steal a baby’s breath

The old wives’ tale that cats will suck the breath out of a baby – clearly a physical impossibility – refuses to die. And it is extremely unlikely that a cat will lie on the baby’s face and smother it, says Hazel King, a qualified cat show judge who often gives advice on feline matters. She points out that despite often having large litters, cat mothers never suffocate their kittens.

It is also hard to imagine why any cat would scratch a baby, as it certainly won’t do so without reason and a young baby is incapable of grabbing or provoking the cat, says King.

Toxoplasmosis is a disease cats can pick up from prey and pass out in their faeces, which can cause foetal deformities in the early stages of pregnancy. If there’s even a possibility that you could be pregnant, let someone else clean the litter tray. And if your cat uses the garden as a toilet, do be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands well afterwards if you’ve been gardening.

Gradual preparation is key

If you have a close bond with your cat, she will most definitely suffer if you suddenly ignore her in favour of the new baby. As soon as your pregnancy has been confirmed, start teaching your cat that she can no longer be the centre of your universe. Ignore her first for just a few minutes, then a few more minutes, then an hour. This gives your pet plenty of time to adjust. Extra attention from another household member can also help to keep the cat happy.   

Get your cat accustomed to baby noises by slowly exposing her to recordings of baby gurgles and cries while at the same time playing with her or scratching her in a favourite spot, so that the baby noise develops a pleasant association.   

It is also a good idea to give the cat free access to the baby’s room, so that by the time the child is born, the nursery is a familiar space. Once the baby has been born, the father can bring home things that smell of the baby, and let the cat get used to the smell.

And no matter how sleep deprived you may be, do your utmost to keep one or two times just for you and your cat every day, even if it’s only for a quick cuddle. “Sometimes pregnant women report that their cats showed clear signs that they knew they were pregnant. Encourage the cat to investigate your bump – make it a companion on your journey,” says King. 

Don’t shut the dog out of your new baby’s life

Canine behaviour practitioner Lucy Breytenbach is herself the mother of a young baby, and has a wealth of tips and advice for parents-to-be.

Breytenbach says she really struggled during the last two months of her pregnancy with the stress and anxiety of how she was going to cope with her job and two businesses while also keeping husband, new baby and dogs happy. She overcame this by doing training in the garden with her German shepherd.

Just as with cats, you can prepare your dog for a new baby by playing recordings of baby sounds and the sounds that toys make. Once the baby is born, smells are also important. “I was in hospital for two nights and my husband took the blanket the baby had slept in home for the dogs every night, so that they could smell it.” 

New parents are often concerned that dogs will be jealous, and harm the baby purely because of that. This is completely unfounded as dogs simply don’t feel jealousy, says Breytenbach. Actually, it’s more a case of them losing out on attention so they become extra boisterous and in your face when you allow them inside the house.

You then get angrier and angrier and put the dogs outside again, causing them to either go into a depression or develop all kinds of other behavioural issues.

‘Let me welcome this baby into the pack’

It’s important to make your dogs feel they are a part of your growing family and you need to respect the grouping instinct that many dogs have, says Breytenbach. 

Make sure that your dog’s exercise needs are met. Get a dog walker or a friend to walk him, because it could make any problems around a new baby worse if he isn’t getting out of the house. 

As soon as your baby is in some kind of routine, pinpoint where you can bring your dog into that routine. As an example, Breytenbach says that instead of staying in the nursery for the baby’s morning feed, she goes out into the lounge and sits with the dogs on one side of the couch, with all of them around her while she’s feeding the baby, making everybody a part of that moment.

Baby gates, which keep the dogs away but still allow them to see what you’re doing with the baby, can also help prevent stress.

Mental stimulation is very important. Once you get home from work, take your dog out into the garden, play fetch with him and try and do some fun things. There are also many games you can play inside the house, especially in winter when the weather’s terrible and it’s dark in the garden.

Of course, we all tend to get a bit lazy and it’s also a matter of finding the time to do it. “It does make all the difference. It’s a new family member and dogs have to be a part of that. They have to understand it and smell it and hear it and know that this is normal, which takes a bit of time because there’s always noises and smells that they don’t recognise.”

It all boils down to some simple solutions, and having a plan. “And if that plan doesn’t work when the baby actually arrives, it’s okay. Make a new plan –- it’s doing what you can and making sure everyone’s a part of it,” says Breytenbach.

How are you preparing your pets for bringing your newborn home? Of if you have kids already, how did your pets react to the new addition to your family? Send you stories and comments to chatback@parent24.com and we may publish them!

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