Pets and kids can be a great combination; many of us have wonderful memories of growing up with furry siblings. Children often develop a special bond with animals and can learn important lessons in empathy and responsibility. Whether you’re adding two or four-legged family members, here are some tips to help everyone get along.
You already have a pet; now baby’s on the way
Congratulations! In all the excitement and preparation for the new arrival, there are a few things to consider to help Fido and Fluffy adapt. Long before baby’s arrival, begin to make the necessary changes to your pet’s routine and surroundings. If your dog needs training, sign her up for classes now so that you can manage her behavior when you’re busy with the baby. If your pet isn’t used to sharing your attention, invest in some toys that he can play with by himself to keep him occupied and happy.
Are there other family members who can share pet care? You’ll have less time (and energy) for play and walks, so if you have an active dog, consider hiring a dog walker or finding a doggy day care close by.
If you will be rearranging items like bowls, beds and litterboxes, do that gradually so that your pet can get used to their new locations. Cats, in particular, can become stressed with changes, so introducing baby sounds and associating them with treats and petting can improve the odds that they’ll adjust well. Pheromone products like Feliway (for cats) and Adaptil (for dogs) can help if your pet is particularly anxious. These can be purchased in our hospital or our online store.
After the baby comes home, let your pet first get used to the sights, sounds and smells of the little one and then have a slow introduction, with lots of treats for good behavior. Your pet should always associate “baby” with something good!
You already have kids and want to add a pet
The kids and/or your spouse have been begging for a furry addition to the family, or maybe you want them to have the joy (and responsibility) that you remember from your childhood. Before bringing a pet home, do some research first; some breeds are more suitable for families than others.
Consider your lifestyle as well; if your pet will be home alone for long stretches of time, an active dog will, out of sheer boredom, amuse herself by destroying your belongings. Plan to adopt when you’re not in the middle of other major life changes like a move or a new baby.
The whole family can discuss together the changes the new pet will bring. Where will he eat, sleep and play? Who will take care of him? Make sure you are equipped to provide the medical care your new addition will need and think about getting pet insurance to help with those costs.
What kinds of toys and activities can everyone enjoy together? Arrange beds, bowls and litter boxes in quiet areas so pets can be undisturbed. Your family might want to take a class or watch some videos so that your kids start to learn how to hold, pet and play with the kind of pet you’ll be getting and how to read their nonverbal communication.
As the family grows
While your children and pets are growing up together, they will need your guidance to help everyone get along happily. The most important things you can do are to model the behavior you want your children to have around animals and to actively supervise their interactions so that you can intervene if needed. If your pet has a crate or other “safe” place, you can teach her to go there when the kids get to be “too much” and she wants to be alone.
Reward your pet’s good behavior around the kids! Never hit your pet when disciplining. In the rare event that your pet shows aggression towards anyone, get professional behavior help immediately from a veterinary behaviorist!
A final word
Please keep your pet up to date on vaccines, parasite screening and other preventive care like heartworm and flea/tick prevention such as Heartgard, Nexgard and Proheart 6. All pets should see their veterinarian at least once a year. There are diseases you and your children can get from your pets but the good news is that proper hygiene and preventive care can minimize these.
We want to give your pet the best chance to live a long, healthy and active life as a treasured member of your family. Call us at 216-321-6040 if you need a preventive care plan for the kind of pet you’re considering.