Moving? Having a Baby? Going Through a Divorce? Here's How to Help Your Pet Deal

Having a Baby

Possibly one of the most rewarding and joyous life changes, having a baby can be very stressful for an unprepared pet. To a confused animal, a newborn can be a frightening addition to the home. Here are several ways to help your pet know what to expect when you’re expecting:

  • Make slow introductions.Babies don’t look, act or smell anything like adults, so if your pet has never seen a baby before, it’s normal for her to be curious and a little upset. One way to prepare for an introduction is to bring home a blanket with the baby’s scent on it and present it to the pet with treats and praise.
  • Give the pet special attention. With all the excitement of a new baby and congratulatory visitors, new parents may forget to give their pet the attention and affection she’s used to. Make the extra effort to spend a little time each day with your pet so she doesn’t associate the infant with being ignored.

While you’re helping your pet become accustomed to your new baby, it’s also necessary to take certain precautions:

  • Always supervise.As a general rule, pets and babies should never be left alone unsupervised. Children can often play rough and don’t recognize pets’ warning signs, such as growling or baring teeth. And remember, pets should not be scolded for these things. If your pet is giving any warning to your child, take that as a sign that the pet isn’t comfortable, remove her from the situation and try to prevent it from happening again.
  • Don’t scoop the poop. If you’re a cat lady, it’s important to be aware of a parasitic disease called toxoplasmosis, which can be transmitted through cat feces. This risk, however, is very low and does not require expectant mothers to give up their cats. To reduce the risk, pregnant women should abstain from scooping the litterbox. If you must scoop litter while pregnant, wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Other Changes

No matter what the life event, there are three basic steps pet owners should take to help pets accept a change in the household:

  • Prepare ahead of time
  • Introduce the change as slowly as possible
  • Offer rewards along the way

Pets, just like people, are creatures of habit, so you don’t want to overwhelm them and confirm their suspicions that something different is bad. Whatever it is that’s new in your pet’s life, keep it low-key and pair it with lots of rewards so she has reason to like it.

Remember that you know your pet better than anyone else does. If you notice a change in her behavior or body language, contact your veterinarian to be sure that the pet isn’t suffering from anxiety or a medical issue. And be patient. With a little extra attention and affection, your furry friend is likely to happily accept the new and the exciting.

Never Abandon Your Pet

When faced with an unfortunate life change, like a foreclosure or eviction, and you can no longer afford to care for your pet, do not leave your pet behind assuming that someone will find her. Instead, ask a responsible friend to care for the animal or contact your veterinarian, who may be able to assist with short-term boarding or can direct you to an agency, such as a local humane society, that can help.

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