A real concern for parents is introducing their “first child”, i.e. the family cat or dog to a new baby. There is an adjustment period for the family pet when a new baby arrives, the walks may occur with less frequentcy and the new parents can’t shower the open love and attention on it as they once did. With the arrival of twins, triplets or more, the family pet(s) can really suffer as it is takes a back seat to the needs of all of the new babies.

“How can I help my dog (or cat) adjust to the babies and not feel jealous?” is a very common question in our Twins Plus Prenatal Classes. These important and loving members of our family need our time and attention as well.

Helping your cat or dog adjust to the new arrivals can be made easier with a few simple steps. Here are a few ideas to help you and your pet make the transition:

  1. Some parents have pulled back a little on the affection they display to their pet in the last 4 weeks or so of their pregnancy. This helps him with the adjustment to the “lack of spontaneous availability” that will occur when the babies arrive home.
  2. Some parents have played tapes of babies crying, gurgling, laughing and “talking,” so that their pet gets used to the sound and various changes in pitches of the tiny voices.
  3. After the babies are born, take ONE receiving blanket (the soft, colourful, flannel blankets) PER child to the hospital and wrap each baby in one. At the end of the evening/visit, take the blankets home and place them on the floor for your pet to smell, roll/sleep on and become acquainted with the new babies’ odour.
  4. In spite of the fact you are busy with the new babies, try to walk the dog at a set time each day so that he becomes used to it and can rely on this time for your attention.
  5. Make sure your dog has a quiet place away from active babies or to sleep uninterrupted.
  6. While you are feeding a baby or changing a diaper, talk to your pet as well. This helps the animal feel a part of the group and lets him know that the babies are also a part of that group.
  7. Many parents worry about cats climbing into the crib, carriage or bassinet and smothering a baby. It is very rare that such would happen but if your cat does like to sleep with you, you may need to be proactive. Set up another separate sleeping area for it, at all times and make sure the door to the babies’ room is closed or you are nearby to watch the cat. If you are worried about the cat, try and find a permanent home for it or until the babies are a little older and a cat climbing into a crib may not then be such an issue.
  8. If you are decorating a nursery, do it early so that the dog can get used to the new room. Take this opportunity to teach the cat not to climb into or sleep in a crib.
  9. Allow your dog the opportunity to smell the new baby items, equipment and toys. It helps him incorporate these new smells into his expanding world.
  10. Not all animals and babies are compatible. One couple had two Rottweilers which they felt would be aggressive towards their babies. They wanted to get rid of one and keep one. With much feedback and advice from professionals, they agreed to find new homes for both dogs. Don’t take any chances. If you know in your heart that it won’t work out, find a new home for your pet. Your babies’ lives may depend upon it.
  11. With patience, time and love, most animals adapt very well to the new arrivals. It doesn’t take them long to realize that the babies are extension of the family itself and they soon become enamoured of the babies and sometimes very protective as well.
  12. It is also necessary to watch out for and protect our pets from the children. Toddlers don’t realize how rough they can be; pulling hair, ears or tail or stepping on a tail or foot. What is good about having animals around at an early age is that we can teach our children to be gentle and kind towards pets.

Resources

www.preparingfido.com
This Site offers a taped cassette of baby sounds which you can play for your pet to get him accustomed to various baby sounds.

www.petplanet.co.uk/petplanet/behaviour/behaviour_predatoryinvolvinginfants.htm– additional ideas regarding your pets

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