Keep pets in good health
All pets, whether they are kept indoors or outside, should be in good health, show no evidence of disease, and be friendly toward children. The following suggestions benefit your pets and may also help protect young children from both illness and injury:
- Immunize cats and dogs, and use flea-, tick-, and worm-control programs.
- Keep pet areas clean. Dispose of all pet waste immediately. Keep litter boxes away from children.
- Spay or neuter your pets. It can reduce aggressive behavior.
Train and prepare dogs
If you have a dog, train and prepare it for contact with children. Many dogs will try to dominate children because of their small size. Also, some children aren't well-behaved around animals. These things put children at risk for injury. To help prevent such problems with dogs and other pets, you can:1
- Redirect nibbling, pouncing, or swatting behaviors to toys instead of people.
- Get your pet accustomed to nail trims.
- Closely supervise all interactions between children and pets.
Pets and newborns
Be especially careful when bringing a newborn home where a pet has enjoyed "only-child" status. Animals can become jealous, aggressive, and defensive about trying to protect their place in the family. Also, newborns don't act, smell, or sound human, which may confuse pets. The weak, high-pitched cry of newborns may also sound like prey to animals. Even a very loving, well-behaved pet can quickly transform into predator mode with a newborn.
Try the following to prepare your pet for sharing its home with an infant:1
Before the baby is born
- Talk with your veterinarian or pediatrician if the thought of your newborn being around your pet makes you uneasy.
- Slowly reduce the amount of time you spend with your pet before the baby is born. This will help prevent an abrupt change in the amount of attention your pet receives.
- If your pet is quite attached to the mother-to-be, have another family member develop a closer relationship with the animal.
- Train your pet to remain calmly on the floor beside you until you invite him or her on your lap.
- If you have friends with infants, ask them to bring their baby to your home. Watch the pet and baby at all times.
- Carry a doll around.
- Talk to your pet about the baby, using the baby's name if you chose one.
- If possible, play recordings of baby noises, such as crying. Also turn on items such as baby monitors and swings periodically to get your pet used to new sounds.
- Consider enrolling your pet in obedience school, and practice the techniques you learn.