If you own a cat or dog, you probably see your pet as a member of the family. And rightfully so! Pets are an important part of a loving home. But what happens when you have a baby on the way?

Bringing a newborn into your family can be a bit trickier when you have a pet in the home. In this article, the baby experts at Mustela will tell you everything you need to know about your family pet and the little bundle of joy you’re expecting.

small family walking outdoors with their pet

How To Prepare Your Pet For Baby

The process of preparing your pet for your baby’s arrival, like preparing a toddler for a younger sibling, is extremely important. It’s best to begin this process early on in your pregnancy because it can take some time for your dog or cat to adjust. Plus, the changes in your household will start long before your due date. These adjustments include everything from changes in your relationship to rearranging furniture and preparing your baby’s room.

Additionally, you probably won’t have as much time and energy to spend on your furry friend when you’re pregnant. This can be tough on your cat or dog’s psyche. Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to help your pet get ready for the changes to come!

Any Furry Friends

You can start by giving your pet some personal space in your home. Place a pet bed or soft cushions for your animal to lay on, along with their favorite toys, in one small area. If possible, you can also put their water and food bowls close by. This tells your cat or dog that the area belongs to them and only them!

Similarly, you will want to create a special place for your baby. Most often, this will be the room where your baby will sleep, which may be a nursery or your bedroom. Either way, you should start making that space off-limits to your pet. If your pet is used to spending time in that area, this may be a tough transition.

On top of all that, you can have your pet spend time around other babies. If you have friends or family with an infant, invite them over and let your pet get used to being around young children. If you’re the first in your social circle to become pregnant, try bringing a baby doll into the home and treating it as a real baby. It might seem silly, but it will help!

Finally, get your pet accustomed to the new sounds they’ll be hearing when your baby arrives. Play baby sounds—including sounds of a baby crying—in your home to prepare your pet.

The tips above apply to all four-legged critters. Below are some tips specific to your canine and feline friends.

dog kissing toddler on kitchen floor

Dogs

Take your dog’s personality and normal demeanor into consideration. If they tend to be a bit rambunctious, you’ll need to teach them to calm down. Jumping up on adults may not be a problem, but it can seriously injure an infant. Correct your dog when they’re behaving too energetically, and reward tranquility by giving them attention or treats when they’re relaxed.

If your dog has aggressive tendencies, you should consider taking them to a professional dog trainer or a doggie boot camp course. While cases of dogs attacking babies are rare, it has happened before. You do not want to have an aggressive dog and a baby living in the same house.

Dogs have an extremely acute sense of smell, so allowing them to get comfortable with new scents is also important. This includes cleansers, shampoos, baby wipes, and diaper rash cream. Stock up on all the essential baby products now so that your dog is used to the smell long before your little one arrives. Mustela offers a variety of gentle skin care products that are 100 percent safe for your baby’s delicate skin.

Cats

Just as with a dog, you’ll need to think about the normal demeanor and behavior of your pet cat. If your cat is docile and normally keeps to itself, bringing your baby into the home may be an easy adjustment. This is especially true if your feline is friendly with humans.

If your cat isn’t so friendly, you may have a more challenging transition in front of you. Cats that have a tendency to scratch may need help from a professional pet trainer.
Some things you can do at home to ease the adjustment for your feline friend include:

  • Applying baby lotion to your hands before petting your cat
  • Switching any cat routines that will change after your baby is born (such as feeding times) a month or two before you bring home your little one

For the most part, cats are independent creatures, but it’s still important to take steps to ensure a smooth transition for everyone in your home.

toddlers in bubble bath with kitten

How To Introduce Your Family Pet To Your New Baby

Before bringing your baby into your home, take a blanket or article of clothing that your baby has worn into the house. Allow your pet to sniff it, but don’t allow them to lick or bite it. This will give them the chance to get used to your baby’s scent while also letting them know the scent should be treated with respect.

Give your pet plenty of attention before introducing them to your baby. If you have a dog, take them for a long walk or play fetch with them before the introduction. That way, they’ll have less energy and be more relaxed when they meet your new little one.

When the big moment has finally arrived, remember to stay calm. It’s an exciting time, but a low-energy environment is best for the initial introduction. This will help both your baby and your pet to be at ease.

At first, it’s best to just let everyone become comfortable with one another’s presence. Let your baby and your cat or dog sit in the same room for a while. Don’t allow your animal get too close to your baby.

After some time has passed, you can gradually let your pet come closer to your baby. It’s perfectly fine for your pet to smell and inspect your baby, but never hold the baby over your pet or allow your pet’s mouth to get too close to your child. This includes licking! No matter how adorable it is, you shouldn’t let your pet lick your baby, as it’s unsanitary and may encourage nibbling.

Monitor the situation closely, and watch out for any signs of aggression from your pet. With dogs, this might be growling or snarling. Cats might hiss or raise their backs. If you notice any aggressive behavior, take your pet out of the room and try another introduction at a later time.

large dog licking baby's mouth

Signs Your Family Pet Is Jealous Of Your Baby

It’s not uncommon for a pet to get jealous when a baby becomes a part of the family. Your cat or dog will be receiving less attention and may be envious of your little bundle of joy. Here are some signs that your pet is feeling jealous.

Dogs

Keep an eye out for the following signs with your canine:

  • Urinating in your home
  • Destroying things (chewing and/or scratching)
  • Attention-seeking behavior

If you spot any of these behaviors, make an effort to spend more time with your dog. Even just 15 minutes a day goes a long towards reminding your dog that they’re loved!

Cats

When cats are feeling envious, they tend to:

  • Urinate and/or spray in your home
  • Hide from people and not spend time in their normal perches
  • Refuse to eat and drink

While cats aren’t usually as extroverted as dogs, they still value your attention. If you think your cat has developed baby envy, try to give them as much affection as you can.

mother holding baby pet cat while toddler touches it

Baby And Pet Safety Tips

Last, but definitely not least, let’s go over some crucial safety tips for having a baby and a pet under the same roof.

  • Never leave your pet and baby unattended
  • Make sure your pet is never showing any signs of aggression
  • Teach pets not to put their mouths close to your baby
  • Keep good boundaries by preventing your pet from entering your baby’s space and vice versa

Preparing for the arrival of your little one can be stressful. (Having a detailed checklist can help you stay on top of things!) But preparing a pet for the new addition to your family doesn’t need to be difficult. Just follow all the tips we’ve provided here, and your pet will be your new bundle of joy’s first best friend.