I know when we announced our new addition to other relatives, they were concerned about the cats we have in the house and toxoplasmosis because it can cause serious birth defects. I assured them I would not be handling the litter box at all, and that Rich would get to be the lucky candidate for that. Also after looking it up, it seems it can easily be avoided. It is rare in the U.S. and is mainly in the feces of cats that ingest raw meat, birds, mice, or contaminated soil. Since we never have raw meat in the house and our cats are only indoors, our family felt a little less worried.
I decided to look into other tips that would help us (and our relatives) feel more prepared for our new addition. The Humane Society's website gave me some good info on toxoplasmosis along with some other suggestions on how to adjust my furry kids to the new baby:
- Spay or neuter your pet. Not only do sterilized pets typically have fewer health problems associated with their reproductive systems, but they are also calmer and less likely to bite.
- Consult with a veterinarian and pediatrician if the thought of your newborn interacting with the family pet makes you uncomfortable. By working with these experts before your baby is born, you can resolve problems early and put your mind at ease.
- Address any pet training and behavior problems. If your pet exhibits fear and anxiety, now is the time to get help from an animal behavior specialist. If your pet's behavior includes gentle nibbling, pouncing, or swatting at you and others, redirect that behavior to appropriate objects.
- Train your pet to remain calmly on the floor beside you until you invite him or her on your lap, which will soon cradle a newborn.
- Encourage friends with infants to visit your home to accustom your pet to babies. Supervise all pet and infant interactions.
- Accustom your pet to baby-related noises months before the baby is expected. For example, play recordings of a baby crying, turn on the mechanical infant swing, and use the rocking chair. Make these positive experiences for your pet by offering a treat or playtime.
- If the baby's room will be off-limits to your pet, install a sturdy barrier such as a removable gate (available at pet or baby supply stores) or, for jumpers, even a screen door. Because these barriers still allow your pet to see and hear what's happening in the room, he'll feel less isolated from the family and more comfortable with the new baby noises.
- Talk to your pet about the baby, using the baby's name if you've selected one.
- Finally, plan ahead to make sure your pet gets proper care while you're at the birthing center.
After the baby is born:
- Greet your pet warmly and calmly when you return home after giving birth, and have someone else take the baby into another room. Keep some treats handy so you can distract your pet.
- Bring your pet with you to sit next to the baby after the initial greeting. Reward your pet with treats for appropriate behavior. Remember, you want your pet to view associating with the baby as a positive experience. To prevent anxiety or injury, never force your pet to get near the baby, and always supervise any interaction.
- Try to maintain regular routines as much as possible to help your pet adjust. And be sure to spend one-on-one quality time with your pet each day—it may help relax you, too. With proper training, supervision, and adjustments, you, your new baby, and your pet should be able to live together safely and happily as one (now larger) family.
So in a perfect world, these tips will instantly solve any pet versus baby issues with a few magical steps, right? Well, I am not so sure how they will work at our house as our menagerie of pets obviously run the joint. In fact, I fully anticipate there will be a mutiny and the kitties will be constantly attempting to take over the nursery. But even though they are little monsters, they will still get the rest of their nine lives to adjust to our little "Penny" starting in April! :-)