Taking Care of Your Pet to Protect Your Young Child
Keep your 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
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.
neuter your pets. It can reduce aggressive behavior.
veterinarian's advice immediately if your pet becomes aggressive.
Train and prepare dogs for being around children
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 are not well behaved around animals. These factors put children at
risk for injury. The following suggestions can help prevent such problems. Some
of the suggestions may also work with other pets:1
Teach your dog submissive behaviors, such as
rolling over to show its stomach.
Do not play aggressive games
with your dog, such as wrestling.
Redirect nibbling, pouncing, or
swatting behaviors to toys instead of people.
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 do not 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
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.
If possible, borrow an
item with a baby's scent, such as a blanket. Bring it home and allow your pet
to sniff and investigate.
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
Introduce new scents gradually, such as the lotions and
other items you have for the baby.
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.
enrolling in obedience school, and practice the techniques you learn.
After the baby is born
When the baby comes home for the first time,
have a friend or relative stay with the baby in a different room while parents
reacquaint themselves with the pet.
Bring your pet with you to sit
next to the baby. Give the animal treats to develop positive associations with
Do not force your pet to be near the baby. This only
causes anxiety and increases the chance of injury.
Do not allow
your pet to sleep alone in the same room as a baby. Large pets, such as dogs,
can easily overturn bassinets or disrupt a crib. Other animals, such as cats,
can smother a baby.
Never leave a baby alone
with a pet. It only takes a moment for a pet to misbehave and cause a serious
Although extra time can be hard to come by when you have a
newborn, try to spend some one-on-one time with your pet each day.
Humane Society of the United States (2009). Introducing your pet and new baby. Available online: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_babies.html.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
November 30, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
November 30, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this