Your Baby and the Family Pet

Dog and cat on fence

Pets are often treated as a member of the family, and a new baby's arrival can change the dynamics of the relationship between pets and their owners. Many pet owners are excited with the joy of a new baby and unintentionally ignore the family pet.

Use the following tips to keep your baby safe and prepare your pets.

Pet Safety

  • Always use caution when allowing contact between your child and pet. Never leave the baby unsupervised with your pet. Pets may bite, scratch or even suffocate chlidren without meaning to harm them.
  • A pet should not be allowed to sleep in the baby's room. Only allow your pet in the room when you are present. Make it off limits at all other times. It's a good idea to shut the baby's door for sleep time, or install a device to keep the pets out.
  • Ensure that your pets are properly vaccinated prior to the arrival of your baby. Have your pets vaccinated according to instructions from your veterinarian. Your pet may contract rabies if it comes into contact with infected racoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, cats, and can pass the virus to humans if they're not vaccinated.

Prepare Your Pet for the Baby's Arrival

Get the nursery ready ahead of time and allow your pet time to check out the baby's room, clothes, etc. Establish room rules before the baby’s arrival.

Feed your pet prior to the baby's arrival home. They will be in a better mood after a meal and more receptive to the baby. Do not force the animal toward the baby.

Learn more about how you can prepare your:

Dogs

  • When bringing the baby home, mother should greet the dog without the baby. Get someone else to hold the baby in another room while mom gives some attention to the dog.
  • Ensure your dog is calm before bringing the baby into the room. One person should attend to the baby while the other attends to the dog. Hold the baby while sitting down to appear less threatening.
  • Wrap a doll in a receiving blanket and pretend to change a diaper or feed the doll while telling the dog to sit and stay. When completed, offer the pet a reward for staying still.
  • Talk calmly and offer petting, praise and treats for good behaviour
  • Include your pet on outings when you can. Always praise your dog for good behaviour around the baby.
Cats
  • Do not touch or change dirty cat litter. Have someone else do it. If you must change the litter yourself, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards. Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite called toxoplasmosis.
  • Cats can spread parasites by eating infected rodents, birds, or other small animals which are found in the cat's feces. Cats and kittens prefer litter boxes, garden soils, and sand boxes for elimination. You may be exposed unintentionally by touching your mouth after changing a litter box, or while gardening without gloves.
  • Cats may not want to sniff the baby right away. However, if they appear interested, sit down with the baby and call the cat to inspect the baby.

Reptiles

  • Since reptiles can have salmonella, always wash your hands after handling them. Reptiles, including turtles, are not good pets for children under the age of five and should not be in the same house as an infant.
Birds

  • Birds can pass on campylobacter, salmonella, chlamydiosis, or some protozoal infections that could be contracted by your family
  • A complete exam by your veterinarian can determine the health status of your bird

Recommendations

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water after contact with animal feces. For example, after changing kitty litter, bird cages or scooping up after your dog.
  • Keep pets away from food storage and preparation areas. Wash your hands well with soap and water after handling pet treats, pet food and pet toys, or after playing with or cleaning up after your pet.
  • Prepare your pet prior to bringing the baby home by establishing boundaries with baby's room; jumping up, pet toys versus baby toys
  • If you or your child gets a scratch or a bite from your pet, wash the area with soap and running water right away. Consult your health care provider if necessary.
  • Keep the cat's litter box and your pet's food dish out of reach of children
  • Remember, if your pet spends time outdoors, inspect it for ticks. Ticks can be carried in on your animal, fall off in the house and attach to you or your baby.

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