Babies mean new sights, sounds and smells, and they take the lion's share of everyone's attention.
All of these things may make your dog or cat feel threatened.
If you plan ahead, you can make the arrival of a new baby much less stressful for you and your companion animal. Begin by introducing scents, such as baby powder and lotion, before your baby's arrival. You can do this by using these products on yourself or a small doll.
Once you have the nursery set up, allow the animal to gently inspect it. Install a baby gate and begin using it, or close the door when you aren't around so the animal doesn't have free access to this room. This helps establish boundaries before the baby arrives.
Once the baby is born, have your spouse or a familiar relative take a piece of baby clothing or baby blanket home for the animal to smell.
Keep the homecoming a quiet event. Throwing a party or inviting a bunch of guests right away will only make the animal more nervous or excitable.
Have dad or a familiar relative carry the baby in so that Mom can greet her four-legged family member. Only after the animal has settled down should you attempt to introduce the newcomer.
Keep the first meeting brief and supervised. It may help to have someone familiar hold your companion animal while Mom holds the baby. Holding the animal provides a means of positive attention and safety.
It is a good idea to spend some special quality time with the animal once the baby has settled in for a nap. When the baby awakes and begins crying, provide reassurance to the animal to help alleviate any agitation at the new sound.
No matter how well the relationship seems to be progressing, never leave the baby and four-legged creature alone.
There is a world of information on human-animal relationships. Check out aspca.org or humanesociety.org.
Inherit the Earth is a Greencastle-based organization.