COURTESY ENDO FAMILY
Gary and Janet Endo gradually introduced their new baby, Caitlin, to Whitey, their 7-year-old Siamese cat. The Endos believe that Caitlin will appreciate growing up with cats as playmates.
Prepare pets for the arrival of a newborn child
When a new baby is on the way, families with children and families with pets have a lot in common. With older children, parents first need to prepare sisters and brothers for the new arrival. Once the baby comes home, parents must help them adjust.
Definition: A rare disease that can cause serious birth defects, caused by a parasite found in uncooked/undercooked meat, contaminated soil and in the feces of cats that eat raw meat, birds or mice.
Prevention: Toxoplasmosis is easily avoided if the pregnant woman does not eat uncooked/undercooked meat. Also, wash hands with soap after handling raw meat and wear gloves when gardening or handling soil or kitty litter.
Also: Keep your cat indoors and away from wildlife, and feed cats only commercially prepared cat food.
It is the same for families with pets.
If you have a pet, you can help it cope much as parents help children accept a baby. These tips can ease your pet's stress and ensure that it stays where it belongs: with you and your family.
As your first "baby," Fido or Fluffy is used to being the center of attention. He might experience something like sibling rivalry when a newborn joins the family.
Work with your pet before you bring your baby home so it gradually gets used to spending less time with you. Suddenly decreasing attention and frequently scolding, ignoring or isolating it after the baby arrives probably will stress it.
Here are steps you should take long before your baby is born:
» If Fido is particularly attached to Mom, another family member should develop a closer relationship with him.
» Visit the veterinarian to ensure that all vaccinations are current and that your pet is on a program to prevent ticks, fleas and heartworms. Spay or neuter your pet; sterilized animals are calmer.
» If the idea of newborns interacting with pets concerns you, consult both your veterinarian and pediatrician.
» Address pet behavior problems through training classes or by consulting an animal behavior specialist.
» Get your pet used to nail trims and teach it to remain calmly on the floor beside you until you invite it onto your lap.
» Encourage friends with infants to visit, but supervise these interactions.
» Accustom your pet to new noises by playing recordings of a baby crying. Make these positive experiences by offering a treat or playtime.
» Apply double-sided carpet tape to the crib and changing table to discourage Fluffy from jumping on them.
» Carry around a swaddled doll, take it in the stroller when you walk your dog, and use it to simulate activities of feeding, bathing and diaper-changing.
» Talk to your pet about the baby, using the baby's name. Apply baby powder or baby oil to your skin to familiarize your pet with the new smells.
Before you bring your baby home from the hospital, have a friend take home a blanket or something with the baby's scent on it for your pet to investigate.
When you return from the hospital, your pet might be eager for attention. Have someone take the baby into another room while you greet Fido warmly but calmly. Let him sit next to you as you hold the baby. Keep treats handy as rewards for appropriate behavior. Keep associations with the baby positive.
Never force your pet to go near the baby, and always supervise interactions.
Maintain regular routines. And spend one-on-one quality time with your pet every day -- it will relax you, too.
The brochure "Preparing Pets for a New Baby"
is available from the Hawaiian Humane Society via www.hawaiianhumane.org
(under Pet Care & Advice, Other); or call 356-2223.
"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. The Hawaiian Humane Society is a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. It is at 2700 Waialae Ave. Call 946-2187.