5:51 PM EDT, October 25, 2012
We're expecting. What's the best way to introduce a new baby to our cat and dog?
This will be a time of big changes for everyone, including your pets. They will be in tune to all of the anxiety, excitement and stress that will fill your household. It's important to help your other "babies" adjust to the new one you'll soon be bringing home.
Make every new experience for your pet as positive as possible. As you bring new baby gear into your home, pair it with treats so that the big scary stroller and swing will become not so scary for your pets and eventually a normal part of life. Use a baby doll to help your pets get used to the real baby. Carry around a swaddled doll, take it in the stroller when you walk your dog, and use it to get your pets used to routine baby activities, including bathing and diaper changing. Train your pets to remain calmly on the floor beside you when you are holding the doll until you invite them on your lap.
Teach your dog to go to his bed on command. This will help when your dog is under your feet during a nighttime feeding and will help him relax during more stressful times. For cats, create a play area with high spots to perch and hiding spots to feel safe. Food-dispensing puzzle toys help keep your pets occupied while you are busy with your baby. Continue to include walks and playtime with your pets, even if the sessions are short.
This week's expert is Nichole Miller, assistant director of operations at the Maryland SPCA (mdspca.org). Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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