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Newborn and Pet Interaction, By: Dr. Brent Cook

Having a new baby is an exciting time in your life, but as new parents we also find it is a time of added worries.  Will our baby have 10 fingers and toes?  Will the delivery go ok?  And as pet owners, we have the additional worry of wondering how our pets will react to a new arrival in the house.  Most dogs and cats do very well when a new baby arrives in the house, but how can we better ensure that ours will be one of those?

Dr. Cardella and I experienced these worries when our daughter was born 17 years ago…

Dr. Cardella, Alice, and Nuala
Dr. Cardella, Alice, and Nuala

At the time, we had two cats and one dog, Nuala, our rambunctious wheaten terrier.  We didn’t really worry about Nuala hurting the baby on purpose, but her jumping and barking did make us think that she could accidentally hurt the baby. Plus, as one friend told us, “They all have teeth— even the nice ones can bite!”

As soon as we assembled the crib, we found that the cats thought it was for them. It was the perfect place for them to take a nap! “They will suck out the baby’s breath if you let to them near the crib” one of our friends told us.  At the time, we were not sure what “sucking out their breath” meant (and this was in the days before the internet!), but it sounded really bad so we didn’t want to go there.

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Alice with her many crib mates!

We decided that it wasn’t a good idea to have the cats even start the habit of sleeping in the crib, but what could we do to stop them?  We had to keep the door to the baby’s room open so we could hear her cry (ok, in hindsight, we could probably have heard her just fine in our tiny two bedroom apartment, but we were new to this and didn’t know better!  And we thought it would be silly to be using a monitor in place so small).

So we got creative, purchased a window screen and placed it in the doorway to the baby’s room.  Now we could hear the baby fine, but the cats could only access the room when we allowed them.

As for Nuala, even though she had limited exposure to babies prior to the birth of our daughter, she turned out to be very gentle with her. Of course, we were always there to supervise their interactions and make sure that they were positive for both the baby and the dog.

In the end, it turned out that the cats and dog were as fascinated by the baby as she was by them, and they willingly accompanied us to the nighttime feeding and changing sessions. They loved our daughter even more when she was old enough to drop food off of her highchair for them to eat!

Alice and Nuala; 6 mos old
Alice and Nuala; 6 mos old

With proper supervision, allowing your children to grow up with animals can make them smile and laugh more than you can ever imagine. Enjoy!

–Brent Cook, DVM




For more information on Children and Pets, visit our website: Kingsbrookvet.com.

The Resources Tab can take you to our Library where there is a section on Children and Pets.  


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