Pregnant with animals – what to do

Many pet owners today refer to their animals as their children, but sometimes this picture changes when a human child gets added to the family. The arrival of a baby drastically changes the family dynamics, and this can definitely affect the pets, as their lives will also most likely change. But it is possible to make it work.

Do I need to get rid of my pets?

Sadly, many new parents choose to re-home their pets when baby arrives, for various reasons. They might feel that they don’t have time for the pts anymore, or that the pets might injure the baby. However, with good planning and commitment towards both your human and furry family members, things can work out. Besides, instilling a love for animals and teaching your little ones respect towards animals from a young age will enrich their lives tremendously, and they will grow up to be responsible pet owners.

Research has shown that close relationships with pets will inevitably change when baby arrives. Yes, you might have less time and money for your pets, but emotional changes happen as well. Baby now becomes the number one priority, with Fido often being moved to the side lines. But there is no need to get rid of him – it is possible to make the changes go smoothly.

Before baby’s arrival

While you are preparing for baby, you can also start preparing your pets for the change that’s coming, helping them to ease into the transition. Our pets know our daily routines quite well and will most likely notice that something is different. You will start buying baby necessities, prepare the nursery, and your dog might even notice the biological change in your body.

Cats with a nervous temperament might show some stress by hiding, or even spraying, so do not get impatient if you notice a change in kitty’s behaviour. Make sure she has a safe place where she can sleep or spend some alone time. If you are distressed about the situation, a qualified animal behaviourist will be able to assist.

Gradually prepare your dog and help him to associate positive things with the baby. Allow him to smell baby products like lotions, shampoos and the like. If your dog is not going to be allowed in the baby’s room get him used to this before baby’s arrival.

Install a baby gate to keep your dog out of the nursery while you are in there preparing. Get him used to being separated from you in that way. You can start by giving him a yummy chew, of a Kong stuffed with healthy goodies to help him associate the baby gate with good things. Continue this training by keeping treats close by. If your dog is whining, do not reinforce this behaviour but reward him the instant he is calm. Once again, a behaviourist can give you step-by-step advice on this. This will save you from having to deal with an unhappy dog and the demands of a baby at the same time. Never shout at or punish your dog while training him. Also refrain from locking up your dog in the garage or another place that might be a negative experience for him. You are in this together.

Sticking to routines

Something as simple as having a set routine for feeding times, walks, playtime and the like give your pets a sense of security. With a new family member in the home it might be very difficult to stick to the dog’s routines, as all of a sudden you have more responsibilities to attend to.

You will have to plan carefully and try your very best to keep mealtimes at the same time every day. When it comes to walk and play, it can become very challenging. Plan and work out if you will need to change your pets’ routines to accommodate baby. If so, start early, and make the change gradually.

But you have another trick up your sleeve.. and a perfect opportunity to find out who your real friends are! When the time comes close for baby to arrive, people tend to offer their help, should you need anything. Well, simply ask them to walk your dog or even just play with him when they are available. Your dog needs mental and physical stimulation to prevent him from becoming frustrated or even destructive. So, rope in those animal-loving friends! If this is not an option, you can look at hiring professional dog walkers. Do not however, make your pet solely someone else’s responsibility. You are his family and he will appreciate you making some time to give him attention.

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