Pets And Children: Friends Or Foes?

Pets and children. Many expectant parents have pets already living in the house. How do you bring a new baby into the house without upseting your four legged babies?

When we found out we were pregnant, we were obviously overjoyed and pretty much any other emotion you can name... but when it all started to sink in, what were we going to do with our cats?

As owners of 3 cats, none of which being declawed, we didn't know how in the world we were going to have a baby with our other "babies" in the house. They were all friendly in our eyes, but what about jealousy issues and potential scratches and biting?

It didn't take long for me to get on the Internet and try to find resources on how we can better suit our cats needs as well as our future son's safety.

The most common pointers I found were "don't leave baby alone with the pet", "don't stick baby in the pet's face", and "don't let the baby pull on the pet". These are obvious tips any parent should heed too, but it wasn't until our son was born that I actually learned the do's and don'ts of bringing our four legged family around our new infant.

There are the blatent no-no's out there, and if you haven't heard them by now from friends and family, you will soon. A coworker continually told me that after our son was born, we'd get rid of the cats because they would scratch him, and I wouldn't like the sight of cat hair on our son.

Some other things you might want to consider with your pets is they will be very jealous at first. Our cats weren't interested so much in the baby, but more so in how they were going to get the baby off our lap so they could get on it.

I suggest starting your pets (dogs and cats alike) in getting used to you not holding them all the time, and you want to do this long before you will be bringing your baby home. Try not letting them into your lap as much while watching TV. You might even try wrapping a doll baby up in a receiving blanket and carry it around. This will help them get used to you carrying something around in a blanket, and will train them early not to grab at the blanket to play.

One thing my husband and I did was set up all of the baby stuff that would be accessable to our cats. The swing, the exersaucer, the bouncy seat. This got our 'babies' used to these items being around. One thing we forgot was that the swing actually swings, and when we turned it on for the first time with baby in it, they all sat around like a matinee theater, watching him go back and forth.

We did set limits on the cats. They are not allowed in our son's room at any time. The door stays closed and if they are able to slide by us, they are quickly removed. This keeps his bed hair free and doesn't allow the pets any time around him when he is sleeping. They do soon get used to this barrier, but like the toys, baby equipment and lap, you want them to get used to it as much as possible before the actual introduction to baby.

With dogs, the more obvious points are that you do not want to hold the baby down by their face (I wouldn't suggest doing this with any pet excluding fish) as the pet is liable to playfully snap or root at the baby, and maybe hurting it.

When baby is born and still in the hospital (providing you didn't have a home birth), take one of the baby's soiled diapers home before baby makes the trip and let it sit out so the scent of the baby is introduced to the house before the baby. You might even want to bring other things ahead of baby like used receiving blankets or a used sleeper.

You will always hear the negative aspects of having a baby around pets of any kind, but what about the positive?

As your child begins to learn to watch things and is gaining eye control, a pet can be very helpful in aiding in quicker development. I noticed our cats walking around and they are the first thing that actually caught his attention enough for him to follow with his eyes. They seemed to have strengthened his neck for him.

"Petting" the kitties is a new experience. He does want to grab but if we hold his hand out enough, he is petting the kitty, introducing new textures to his senses. He is also slowly learning what 'pet the kitty nice' means (we also use this with 'pet mommy nice' when he wants to pull hair). Your pet can act as a liaison for you in teaching gentle play.

The pets are motivation. Many times I find our son crawling after the cats, and them running nonetheless.

In the past 9 months, our cats have learned the barriers and so has our son. One cat now occassionally comes close enough for him to touch, but they all seem to know what to do when he is close.

Give your pet time - and your baby. A good pet can be beneficial and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

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