But There's Already an Animal Here!
Have a pet? Having a baby? Well it's better than having a baby and getting a pet. If you have a household companion animal when you find out you're expecting, you shouldn't get rid of Bowser or Fluffy—they can, and will, adjust to your new little one, and so will you.
When You Arrive Home
Remember that famous scene in Lady and the Tramp where Lady, the spoiled little Cocker Spaniel, is unceremoniously deposed from her place on the royal bed? When you have a baby, you will be overjoyed, your pet will feel betrayed, and the next step...? Trouble. So, whether you're staggering with stitches or bearing your proud baby, her mother hanging on your arm, don't ignore your leaping animal when you first get home from the hospital. Think of it from your pet's perspective—you've been gone for days, and Bowser missed you. Isn't Bowsie Wowsy your little woozy boozy doogy dog anymore? Bowser doesn't understand, Bowser won't understand. The new baby is like a new sister or brother—expect jealousy. Your pet will not instantly love your new little bundle of joy. (Give it time!)
- Let your pet get used to children before he has a human child of his own.
- If Baby is staying in the hospital (even for the first day), bring a blankie of his home for your pet to sniff.
- When you arrive home, meet the potential conflict head on. Get on the floor, holding the baby wrapped tightly (with another adult in the room to intercept Bowser if he suddenly gets nasty) and let the animal sniff. No, not lick, sniff.
- Let him snuggle next to you while you nurse.
- Watch the doggy like a hawk, and the kitty like an eagle—do not leave them alone with the baby.
Not Listening To Me?
Still thinking puppy or kitten? Let me try to talk you out of it some more. Do you really want two babies to housetrain? Two babies to cry at night? A puppy can put you over the top, what with the piddling and the chewing and the crying. Our yard is down a flight of stairs, and we'd had the dog a full month before she was able to negotiate all twelve steps. Until then, it was every hour "Come on Mollie, let's go potty!" Where will you fit those in with all the diaper changes?
And what if baby pulls Doggy's ears (because babies do) and Doggy, unfairly provoked, snaps off Baby's tender nose?
OK ... Well, Then Be Smart About It!
If you've decided to do the puppy/kitten/baby thing anyway, I'll bite my tongue ... but not until after I've given you some tips.
- Choose a dog with a "soft mouth"—that means shepherds and Dobermans and pit bulls and snappy terriers aren't such a great idea. Go for a retriever, or a dog known for having a CALM temperament.
- Keep them separated, except when you're there. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of the animal? Especially in self-defense?
- Flee the fleas! Flea bites are just plain bad for babies—and bad for parents of flea-bitten babies, too. Deflea your animals regularly (check out the 1-drop-a-month medications that go on the back of a dog or cat's neck.
- Deworm when prescribed, and keep your pet's immunizations current.
- Wait on the hamsters, bunnies, guinea pigs, and snakes until your kid is old enough to know not to eat them. If you do have small animals, let the child stroke the animal—when the animal is in YOUR arms.
- Understand that, under the age of 2, kids simply cannot understand that pulling the puppy's ears and swinging kitty by the tail hurts.
- If the animal is sleeping, don't let the baby touch. If the animal is eating, don't let the baby touch.
- If baby is bitten, clean the bite area with antiseptic soap, and keep it clean until healed. Bites can become infected easily. If it's deep or scary, call a doctor. If the dog is not yours, make sure the immunizations are up to date. If you don't know, CALL A DOCTOR and, if you can, catch the dog—it may need to be checked for rabies.