FOUR-FOOTED FAMILY MEMBERS
Your Pregnancy|December 2021/January 2022
Your children and your pets – everything you’ll need to know to be a happy family.
SYLVIA NILSEN

Our pets are often our first “babies”.Then, when our first real baby is onthe way, we suddenly realise that wemay have a conflict of interests. Will we still have time to devote to our beloved pet? Is it healthy to have pets around babies?

“These are the kinds of questions that are regularly asked by pet-owning parents-to-be,” says Dr Quixi Sonntag from Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital in Pretoria.

A pet can provide balance to a family and give your child a wonderful opportunity to learn about caring, responsibility, patience and trust, so here’s what to do to keep everything harmonious when you bring your baby home.

PREPARING YOUR PET

Although some experts recommend waiting until a child is between 5 and 8 years old before introducing a pet, many families that already have animals cope well with pets and children. You can accustom your pets to your baby’s routine before your baby comes home. Put a baby blanket on the floor and teach your pets that it’s not their space – they will soon learn not to step on it.

“Smell is a huge factor with animals,” says Chris Kuch, spokesperson for the national SPCA. “Start using baby shampoo and talc before the birth. Let your pets smell your baby’s clothes.”

Dr Marianne de Vries, a veterinary behaviour specialist, suggests that you introduce your pets to your baby’s room, carry a doll or a bundle with the smells of your baby on it and use the word “baby” often, so that the pets get used to hearing it. Dr Sonntag agrees. “I made sure, before the birth, that my pets were there when I set up my baby’s room. One cat actually slept in the cot for some time before my baby arrived.”

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