Worried about how your pet will get along with your newborn? MH finds out if it is safe for pets to be around infants.
WORDS CINDY LIM
Pet owners who are expecting a new baby often worry that their pet and newborn may not get along. They are concerned about pets pouncing on the baby, the dog growling, cat scratching, ‘sibling’ rivalry because now there is not enough time for your pet…the list goes on.
While there have been some cases of pets harming babies (see Box: When Pets Harm Babies), these seem to be rare. Most pets are generally tolerant of small children unless your pet is the territorial or aggressive sort and displays prior signs of violence. However, it is vital to be aware of potential risks to your baby no matter how docile your pet may seem.
Animals are unpredictable and babies tend to make sudden movements and noises which may agitate your pet. Some pets like dogs have an extremely keen sense of smell and hearing – a new baby’s strange smell and sudden wails may spook them.
As your newborn is tiny and defenceless, it is best to keep him and your pets apart when you are not around to monitor their behaviour.
“As long as sensible precautions are taken, pets are generally safe around newborns. Generally, we are more concerned about boisterous pets accidentally knocking over or stepping on newborns. Hence, supervision is always needed when it comes to their interactions. Furthermore, cats and dogs may become startled by the baby’s cries. If your pet shows signs of being uncomfortable having the baby too close to them, respect their boundaries,” cautions Dr Estella Liew, Mount Pleasant Central Veterinary Clinic.
Introducing Your Baby
Before bringing your baby home from the hospital, send home baby’s blanket or clothing first for your pet to sniff and be familiar with his or her scent.
When you arrive home with your newborn, let someone else carry the baby while you greet your pet. Give your pet attention so that it knows you still care about it and reward it with treats for good behaviour. Only after your pet has settled down, then slowly bring your baby into the picture.
“When first introducing them, it would be best when the newborn is sleeping or quiet. Allow the dog/cat to sniff and observe from afar. Gauge their reactions and make sure they are comfortable. All interactions should be supervised while respecting the pet’s comfort level. Also, take care not to let excited boisterous animals accidentally injure the newborn,” advises Dr Liew.
Life with a new baby will bring sleepless nights and exhausted mornings. However, do still try to spend quality time with your pet and stick to regular routines to help your pet adjust. With the right planning and constant supervision, your pet and newborn should be able to cohabit together safely and happily.