April is National Pet Month so we thought we'd share some expert advice for getting along with our furry friends and keeping baby safe.
Having a pet around can be both a bonding and a calming experience for your little one however even the most contented of cats and dopiest of dogs can display an uncharacteristic dark side when faced with a new baby.
When our little one was born our soft and sweet little pussycat turned into a green-eyed monster moggy who demonstrated her jealousy by climbing in and on everything baby-related including baby herself, even trying to sleep on baby's head which of course just couldn't continue. After taking expert advice and with a tremendous amount of patience, we are happy to say that cat and child are now living in perfect harmony.
No one wants to be forced to say goodbye to their beloved Tiddles or Fido so here are our top 10 tips for a safe and harmonious pet and baby blend:
1. When baby is tiny always keep pets out of the room she sleeps in and never let a pet share a bed with your baby.
2. Always introduce your pets gently to a new baby as sometimes their reaction can be unpredictable such as barking, hissing, scratching, cowering in a corner or soiling. Dogs can be over friendly and see baby as a puppy or play-thing, and cats, especially females or neutered males can become maternal by snuggling up with baby and bringing in "gifts" for their new "kitten".
3. Try and give your cat or dog at least as much, if not more, attention than you did before. It will be difficult as baby is now top of your priority list but we don't want Tiddles and Fido to know that do we!
4. If you have a dog, try and create a separate area for him to play and toilet, and if you have stair gates these are good for keeping your dog at bay but make sure he or she can still see you so doesn't feel shut out. Depending on your home, stair gates may be a good option for giving baby some pet-free space for floor and tummy time.
5. Dogs always need supervision when young children and babies are around. Even the nicest natured of dog has been known to lose patience if a toddler is pulling its tail, and sometimes they can be rough with babies when all they're actually doing is playing. Fortunately dog attacks are very rare in the UK, but when they do happen they can have devastating consequences. If you already have a dog the NCT do a great factsheet which you can download here, to ensure that he and your little one can live together happily ever after:
6. Cats love to snuggle, particularly in baby's cot, crib, pram etc, or even on baby himself. Cats like to sleep on top of each other so be mindful of your cat settling down with your baby when your back is turned. Cats can jump into cots and have squashy bodies that easily flatten to squeeze through the tiniest of gaps so make sure your baby's sleeping area is secure; a stair gate will not contain a cat!
7. Keep baby away from cat litter trays and dog mess. You were probably warned about the dangers of toxoplasmosis while pregnant but dog faeces also contain nasty parasites which can harm your little one and can even cause blindness. Make sure all pets are wormed regularly as this will go a long way to ensuring your child's safety.
8. If you don't yet have a pet wait until your child is older. Most toddlers love animals, but do they REALLY want a cat, a rabbit, a dog, a hamster, an elephant, or will they change their mind next week?
9. Take your baby and toddler on trips to pet shops and city farms where they get a chance to handle different types of animals; you will soon know which are their favourites. If you are sure that you and your little one are definitely ready for a pet try and encourage them to choose an animal that doesn't have to live in the house all the time. Rabbits and guinea pigs are ideal starter pets as they can come inside for a cuddle, play in the garden when it's sunny and spend their evenings in a hutch.
10. And finally... don't forget the fish pond! We think the best advice is to fill it in, but if you can't part with your gorgeous goldfish then make sure the pond is covered with something strong enough for an adult to jump on. This way you know that it is toddler and baby safe.
For more information about National Pet Month visit their website: www.nationalpetmonth.org.uk.
We hope you enjoy your pet!
CKS. 2012. Bites, human and animal. Clinical Knowledge Summaries, clinical topic. www.cks.nhs.uk
Kennel Club. 2006.Children and dogs. www.thekennelclub.org [Accessed March 2011]
Dogs Trust. 2013. A new baby and the family dog. www.nct.org.uk
UNICEF Baby friendly initiative. 2008. Sharing a bed with your baby. www.babyfriendly.org.uk
Baby Centre. 2013. How can our pets and our new baby live together safely and happily? www.babycentre.co.uk