Introducing Baby to the Family Pet

When your pet meets your infant, it might not be love at first sniff.

Baby's Best Friend

cat with baby picture

Aimee Herring

When Jennifer Merritt brought her baby, Arielle, home from the hospital, her cherished dogs had very different reactions. Her boxer, Sonya, was immediately gentle and protective. But Tiger, the Pomeranian, was less welcoming: "If any diapers or toys were on the floor, he peed on them!" says the Greenbrier, Arkansas, mom.

Tiger isn't the first dog to feel jealous of a baby. From a pet's perspective, there's a new star in town who's stealing his spotlight. Even the most gentle animal will probably act up if he doesn't get his usual attention. These simple steps will help your pet adjust -- and keep your baby safe.

Introduce Them with Care

Baby and cat

Aimee Herring

Your newborn and pet's first encounter can set the tone for their relationship. To make it as smooth as possible, try this trick from Caryn Ruiz, of Raleigh, North Carolina: "Before we left the hospital, my husband took blankets home to our dog, Daisy, so she'd know our newborn Devon's smell." When you get home, have your husband carry the baby so you can greet your pet without worrying about her jumping on you. A cat will likely be aloof at first, while a dog will probably want to investigate right away.

To introduce your baby, get down on your pet's level and let her have a hello sniff. Don't panic and pull your newborn away unless your pet is growling or hissing, because it'll send the message that the baby is a threat.

Learn the Safety Basics

No matter how smoothly the introduction goes, there are certain safety rules you should follow, says Bonnie Beaver, DVM, past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Number one: Never leave your baby alone with the pet. Even the gentlest animal can react unpredictably. Your baby's crying could startle your cat, or your dog could suddenly become territorial. Consider setting up baby gates to limit your pet's access. To keep your cat from jumping into the bassinet, try putting mosquito netting over the top. Cats hate sticky paws, so keep the crib and changing table off-limits by lining the edges with sticky strips made for furniture (available in most pet stores). You can also train your dog to sleep in a crate.

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