Would you like to get a dog but are worried because you have a baby coming – or planned? Do you have a cat and are afraid it’ll be jealous when the baby comes along? Well, some level of concern is fully justified: no matter how domesticated our pets are, they’re still animals, and may unwillingly (or not) hurt our little ones.
In any case, forget any images of the evil Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp, plotting together to put the baby at risk. It doesn’t happen like that in real life. However, it is true that our furry friends may feel jealous of the newcomer, or find their presence unpleasant. For this reason, if you intend to cheer up your household with a baby, it’s important to be very careful when picking a pet to live with you, and to help it get used to the news.
Before you choose your pet, you must arm yourself with plenty of information and evaluate its personality, to avoid unpleasant surprises when it gets home. The pet in question must be naturally sociable and cuddly, must be willing to stand rough handling and jerky movements, and must be emotionally balanced and predictable in its reactions. It’s important to adopt well socialised puppies, which have spent at least 2 months with their mummy, otherwise you may cause a separation trauma that will result in behavioural issues. We all find small puppies absolutely wonderful, but for the sake of your future life together, it’s better to wait a little.
There are a few dog breeds that are not particularly suitable for the company of small humans, and, on the other hand, dogs that are great with children. If you’ve ever watched Sex and the City, you’ll remember the sweetness of Elizabeth Taylor, the lovely Cavalier King Charles Spaniel adopted by Charlotte. Other breeds that work fine with children are affectionate Labradors and Golden Retrievers, Terranovas and Boxers, and, in general, shepherd dogs, friendly, docile breeds with a natural tendency to protect their property. Females, in particular, are “programmed” to raise puppies, and are usually more adaptable and peaceful than males.
When it comes to cats, there are some breeds, such as the Birman, the Maine Coon and the Siamese, that are particularly attached to their owners. To avoid jealousy fits, especially early on, it’s a good idea not to change any habits that involve the cats, such as feeding times and amount of cuddling. The baby’s cot, a new object in the house, will surely make any feline very curious. It’s therefore important not to yell at your cat or to attempt to keep them from exploring, as this will only make them more interested and create a negative association with the baby. Instead, hold your cat and allow her to sniff and observe the baby from a safe distance. Baby cots are comfortable, warm places, and your cat might feel like cuddling up inside, perhaps even right over your baby. Close the bedroom door, or assemble some kind of protection around the cot, and you’re good to go.
Finally, if you want to adopt an animal from a shelter, it’s crucial to find information on any past trauma that may undermine its life with the baby. If the animal has come from a family that had babies or children, it may already have been socialised and gotten used to their presence and be willing to spend time with them without problems. In addition, in particular among cats, adults tend to be more stable and calm; a grown-up cat may be more affectionate and easier to handle with our own human puppies.
The most important thing is to always be patient and understanding, teaching that respect goes both ways. You’ll see that pets and babies not only get along fine, but their experience together will create very happy memories.