Many of you that read this blog, and our valued furry and non-furry clients at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre, will be aware that there has been a new addition to Underhill Towers: mine and my wife’s’ first baby! I’d love to say that in the preceding months I have been a paragon of organised virtue, but the ladies at SLVC have to take most of the credit for chivvying me along.
Buying things we were going to need (and a whole raft of things that I’m sure will turn out not to be needed!) was the easy bit: fire up the ‘puter, click, and then collect. Not so simple was the installation of baby gates/pet guards, or the decorating of the nursery. Again though, the enquiries (not always particularly subtle) of “how’s the baby’s room coming along?” spurred me on.
Now some of you may be thinking “crikey, he’s organised, but why not leave it until nearer the due date?”. Well here’s why: it’s actually not just been for our (or my wallet’s!) benefit, it’s also been about helping the furry Underhill’s adapt. Studies have shown that a bit of advance planning can have a significant, positive impact in your pets; a lot of simple routine things that you wouldn’t think of really.
Cats and dogs have fantastic senses of smell, and they scent mark objects in their territory by peeing, pooing or rubbing on them. To avoid the peeing and pooing happening in your home, it’s a good idea to get your furry family members used to unfamiliar objects such as the pram, cot, playpen, toys, bottles, blankets and changing mat – in fact anything that’s new for baby – in advance. By letting them have a look, sniff and touch of it, they will get used to its presence fairly quickly; the longer it’s there, the more they brush against it and their scent transfers on to it.
An easy tip for cat owners is to grab a soft cloth, give kitty’s head a nice rub with it and then wipe the cloth over the baby items. Here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we can also supply you with synthetic pheromone products (Feliway being one example) that you simply plug in at home to ease any stress your cat may be feeling.
Keeping on with the theme of smell, there is a whole host of aromas to acclimatise your pet to: baby soaps and shampoos, bathing products and lotions, and baby milk formulations if you plan to use them. My wife (and I’m sure other mums-to-be, do too) used loads of moisturiser on her body whilst pregnant, and did actually begin to use some of the baby formulations on herself. Not only did this help to keep her skin supple, but our furry gang got used to the smell; both by itself and also mingled with human skin’s smell.
If you’re planning to make any areas feline- and Fido-free, then make sure you do this well before baby is due. You don’t want them to associate this change (which they may perceive as being negative) with your new arrival, especially if they use this as their place for a snooze or spot of sunbathing during the day.
Human introductions to baby are always happy, and there’s no reason why that initial furry-meets non furry meeting can’t be positive too. Dogs should be well trained enough that they won’t jump up anyway, but if you want to make sure, then just pop their lead on to give you an added layer of control. Make the introduction calmly and let your pet take it at their own pace. Cats and dogs will have a curious sniff and be interested for a short while, and then they will normally walk off after a couple of seconds to process the interaction. Praise calm behaviour with a couple of tasty treats and a nice bit of fuss and then let them come back when they’re ready. It goes without saying to never
leave your baby unsupervised with the family cat or dog; even the best tempered animal can act out of character, and it isn’t fair to put them in this situation, or to put your child at risk.
Babies are total people magnets; when you bring your new bundle of joy home, the whole world and its Uncle seems to descend on your home, desperate for a piece of baby bliss. Whilst this is great – they offer to stick the kettle on, do the washing up etc. – it can cause a heightened level of stress for your fur-baby. This can certainly be the case if it’s the unfamiliar Midwife or Health Visitor and all their paraphernalia.
Some pets will relish the extra attention they get by proxy, but for those who aren’t so sure about the sudden influx of bodies, they will need a ‘safe space’ to go to. This can be a crate or bed in a quieter part of the house for your canine companion, or a tall scratching post or high shelf for your cat (as they naturally prefer higher vantage points).
Given the flurry of activity that visitors to a new baby brings, it’s only natural that puss or hound might be feeling a little pushed aside, so make sure that you spend time alone with them too, just to let them know that they’re still loved and important to you. If you do have any concerns about your fur-baby’s behaviour then please get in touch with the SLVC team; we’re always happy to advise 🙂
Dogs are still going to need their walkies: 1) it keeps their routine going, 2) they can get rid of excess energy or stress so they don’t become “chewy” or destructive, and 3) it keeps new parents and baby healthy too by exercising in the fresh air. If your dog is prone to pulling, you can get them used to walking quietly beside a pram before baby is born, or invest in a harness. Again, if you need advice then please get in touch with us here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre.
Finally, make sure your cat and/or dog is up-to-date with their flea and worming prevention regime. If not, you know what to do: contact one of the SLVC team and we’ll sort you out with what you need.
Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and enjoy your baby! 🙂