Kiddos And Critters

By Tawny Maya McCray

April 24, 2014 5 min read

Raising pets and babies together can prove to be quite challenging, especially when your four-legged baby was around long before the new bundle of joy. Dogs and cats can have a rough time adjusting to a noisy and demanding new family member who takes a lot of the attention away from them. But it is possible for them to peacefully coexist, especially if you prepare your pet for baby's arrival ahead of time and introduce them slowly.

A few easy things you can do before the baby is born, according to wikiHow, is allow your pet to enter the nursery so they can become accustomed to new furniture, new smells and a new environment; apply baby products to yourself or your pet's toys so they become familiar with a baby's smell; and play tapes or videos of babies crying on a regular basis to help familiarize them with a crying baby so they can adjust to the extra noise when the baby arrives.

Once the baby is home from the hospital, the site suggests introducing the pet and baby by having one parent or family member hold the animal as mom or dad slowly approaches with the baby, allowing the pet to sniff and inspect the baby.

Natalie Vereen-Davis, 29, and her husband, Landon, introduced their 2-year-old mixed-breed dog, Phoebe, whom they'd had since she was a pup, to their baby girl, Britton, the day after she came home from the hospital.

During that initial meeting, Davis says she and Landon first sat by themselves on the porch petting the dog, telling her they loved her and praising her for being a good dog. Then Landon went to get the baby while Davis stayed with the dog.

"We let Phoebe come over to look at the baby without getting too close," Davis says. "Phoebe was a bit apprehensive about the baby -- she seemed to know that the baby was important to us but wasn't sure what to do with her -- so Phoebe was initially hesitant to approach Britton."

Davis says they didn't try to force the dog to approach Britton until she was ready to do so, which was several days later.

"Each day, we went through the same routine until Phoebe became more confident around the baby," she says.

Davis says that once that happened, Britton, now 10 months old, and Phoebe set off on being fast friends and are now inseparable.

Davis says that because Britton was a newborn, she couldn't keep her eyes off the dog and was fascinated to watch Phoebe run around outside or play with a ball.

"When Britton was upset as a very young baby, we would let Phoebe run around after a ball, and Britton would immediately quiet down and watch the dog," she says.

Davis says to this day that if Britton is in a terrible mood, all Phoebe has to do is run past her, and her face lights up with a huge smile. And the dog is equally smitten with the baby, she says.

"Phoebe likes that Britton will chase after a ball or toy with her, and the two of them are always together during playtime. Wherever Phoebe is, Britton isn't too far behind."

Another important aspect to raising pets and babies together is making sure to teach the baby how to properly interact with the pet. WikiHow advises taking hold of your child's hand and showing them how to gently pet the animal; teaching your child the meaning of fetch by having them throw toys away from the animal instead of at them; teaching kids to stay away from the pet while they sleep and eat; and scolding your child if they tease the pet with things like ear-pulling or jumping on them.

Robert Anderson, 32, says that when his and his wife's daughter, Daphne, now 4, was just learning coordination and to move around, she tended to pull on their cat's hair and tail.

"Trey would endure, but he would also let her know that he had reached his limit by a small swipe, with no claws, or a whip around and 'phantom' nip with his mouth," Anderson says. "He wouldn't bite; he'd just move his head quickly, which would startle Daph and get her to stop."

Anderson says that as she grew older, she learned to be much more gentle with him, and the two have forged a great relationship.

"Having a pet is a great learning tool," he says. "The companionship Daphne has with Trey is invaluable. It has helped her to learn to share space and be gentle with another living being, especially one that can't communicate verbally."

In all, the key to raising pets and babies together is patience, Davis says.

"Most of the time, the (animal) realizes that a major shift has occurred in the family pack and is unsure of how to react," she says. "He or she will look to you to set that example. Be gentle with (them), but be firm with any boundaries you establish."

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