Q: My husband and I are expecting a child, and we’re worried our baby will upset our two cats, who have had us to themselves most of their lives. How can we prepare our cats for the new arrival?
A: Pets offer children unconditional love, and research shows that children who grow up with pets have fewer allergies, better intellectual development, and higher self-esteem and social competence than children without pets.
You’re wise to plan ahead to ensure that your cats are happy with their new family member. Start by carrying a baby doll around in your arms. To familiarize your cats with baby scents, apply the products you’ll use on your child to the baby doll, and let the cats sniff. Record baby sounds, and play them daily. Accustom your cats to the sight, sounds and smells of a real baby by inviting a friend with a baby to visit.
After your child is born and while you’re still in the hospital, have your husband take home a blanket or cap your baby used, and let your cats sniff it. Once the baby comes home, remember to spend time petting, snuggling and talking to each of your cats so they’ll know you still love them. Supervise young children’s interactions with pets, teaching them to treat pets gently and with respect.
Minimize parasitic infections by keeping your cats indoors and using a preventive, like Revolution or Advantage Multi, that targets fleas and intestinal parasites, particularly roundworms and hookworms, both of which can infect children. Keep baby toys separate from pet toys.
Perhaps my most helpful advice is to download a free copy of the outstanding “Pet Meets Baby.”