Bringing home a new baby is a big adjustment for everyone—pets included—here’s how to ease the transition and introduce your pet to a new baby.
Written by Mia Weber
Introducing your new baby to your cat or dog might seem like the cutest scenario in the world, but, in fact, it’s likely to be very stressful for everyone involved—your pet and child have no idea who the other is or what they’re up to, plus, pets can pose a risk to baby’s safety when not properly supervised.
The good news is that there are some steps you can take before baby comes, and in the early days after baby’s arrival, to prepare your pup or kitty while implementing a new routine that the whole family can follow. And anytime you’re in doubt or have significant concerns, be sure to consult both your pediatrician and your vet.
Get Your Pet Used to the Change in Scenery
One step you can take is to get your nursery and any other baby-specific spaces set up a few weeks ahead of when you think baby will be arriving. This will give your pet time to understand the new makeup of the home and get used to things like the appearance of a highchair in the kitchen, a toy chest in the den, or a shift in how certain rooms are set up and being used.
If you know you’ll need to put up safety gates or restrict your pet from any specific rooms in the house they were allowed to go pre-baby, the sooner you can start on that the better. This will help you set new rules with your pet during a time when you can give the majority of your attention to training them (as opposed to having to put baby’s immediate needs first) and normalizing the fact that they can’t take naps in the spare room or go up and down the stairs whenever they feel like it anymore. It never hurts to use some treats during this process.
Plan a Calm Introduction
The manner in which you introduce your little one and your fur-baby matters. Since dogs can be quite territorial, many experts suggest staging the meeting on the porch or on the sidewalk—maybe your partner runs inside and grabs the doggo so you can greet your pup as family and make a gentle introduction.
Having your dog “meet” the baby on neutral turf lessens the likelihood that your dog will feel like their territory is being invaded, and if you pet your dog and give treats to them if they behave well around the baby, you can reinforce the good vibes.
Cats, as most of us know, are less predictable and less easy to train, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put together a nice meet and greet. If possible, stage the meeting when baby is calm and/or sleepy so there’s less of a chance that crying or sudden movements might startle your cat. Maybe you’re wearing the baby in a carrier or sling as she naps so your kitty can sniff at the carrier a little to understand there’s a new human in the house, but they are sweet and friendly (and safely cocooned in the carrier).
Be Vigilant About Safety
As much as you love your dog or cat, the fact that they pose a risk to baby’s safety is undeniable—regardless of how well behaved they are. Get accustomed to making some hard and fast rules and follow them vigilantly to avoid accidents.
The first, and most obvious rule is to never leave your baby unattended if there’s a chance your pet could get into the room—for example, in a pet-free home, you could certainly take a bathroom break while baby naps in their crib or bops in their bouncer. But if your cat or dog is in the house, you must make sure to secure them in their own space separate from baby if you need to leave the room or if baby is napping. If you have a nanny or sitter helping with childcare, make sure they are aware of this.
The other rules you’ll need to set will vary based on the set-up of your home and the temperament and breed of your pet, but be prepared to implement special rules and routines for mealtimes and for times when baby is playing on the floor for tummy time.
Finally, even though it might seem impossible with everything going on with a newborn, try to make special time for just you and your pet so they know how much you love them still. Maybe this means you and your partner take turns for solo dog walks or having special cuddle time (complete with some treats and catnip toys) with your kitty.