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10 tips for introducing pets to your new baby

You’ve had 9 months to mentally prepare for the baby. Your pets need some time, too!

  1. Start preparing 6 weeks before your due date. An easy way to think of this advice is that preparing 6 weeks in advance will give you 6 smooth weeks after delivery, which, with any luck, is when things will start to settle into a new normal for you and the family.
  2. Decisions to make: Who will provide care during delivery? Will daily pet chores stay the same? Will pets be allowed into the nursery? Where is the pet going to sleep?
  3. If you’re going to be making any changes to your pet’s routine or access to household areas, gradually introduce these changes in the lead up to baby’s arrival. This will mean that your pet is less likely to associate the (bad) change with the baby.
  4. Organize a vet check, including physical exam, vaccinations and any tests, and refilling flea and heartworm preventatives. You’re going to have less time after baby’s arrival.
  5. As you get closer to the due date, start playing baby sounds when you're hanging around in the house. A good album for this on Spotify ("Baby Sounds for Pets" by Kristen Overdurf-Abud). Start off by playing it at the lowest audible volume every day. Gradually increase the volume over a few weeks until you are playing it quite loud. While it is playing, give the pets treats, special food, fun toys, etc. The idea is to make the baby noises be tied to good things, and not scary.
  6. Get up to speed with basic training: sit, stay, settle, “go to your spot”, down. Only use positive reinforcement techniques: Lots of treats and love for doing the correct behavior. No punishments, only corrections.
  7. Purchase some positive, calming pheromones, and start using them one month prior to expected due date: Feliway (www.feliway.com) is a diffuser and/or spray that releases a positive pheromone that can help calm cats. Adaptil (www.adaptil.com) is the analog for dogs and comes in a diffuser or collar. It can be purchased over the counter at most pet stores.
  8. Zylkene is a newer product (http://www.zylkenepet.co.uk) that you give by sprinkling the powder on their food. It is a milk-protein derivative that has been shown to release calming neurotransmitters. It's also available over the counter, but may be a bit harder to find at pet stores, but is on Amazon.
  9. Create a safe environment for baby: move food and water bowls, litter boxes and potty pads to new area where baby can't access.
  10. Arriving home: bring baby’s smell home in advance. Decide on who will monitor baby and who will monitor pets during the first interaction. Mom should go in and greet the pets first to signal that everything is ‘okay’.
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