How do I prepare my pet for my new baby to come home?
There’s a lot to think about when planning to bring a new baby into the family. For many couples, including their ‘fur baby’ into the preparation is also important. It can be hard to predict how our domestic animals are going to react when a new baby comes home. However, planning can help humans and animals adjust as much as possible.
Practical ways to prepare your pet
Before the baby is born
Things you can do to prepare your pet before the baby is born:
- Book your dog into obedience training and speak with the trainer about what you can do to prepare your dog at home.
- Take your dog for walks on a lead while you’re pushing the pram and teach them to walk at the same pace. Never tie the dog’s lead to the pram.
- Share the care of the pets with your partner where possible. Animals tend to be creatures of routine and it will be helpful to make changes to their feeding and care before the baby arrives.
- Practise having your dog under control both at home and when you’re out. It’s important your dog has some ‘recall’ training so they know to come immediately when called.
- If possible, expose your pets to the sound of a crying baby. Play a recorded sound of a baby gurgling, crying, cooing and making noises and reassure your pet if they seem anxious. Over time, increase the volume and continue doing this until your animal seems comfortable.
- Teach your pets where they can go in the house and what areas are out of bounds. Don’t let them in the baby’s room, or where the baby is going to sleep.
- Set up baby gates or barriers to rooms and areas in your house where the baby will be. Flywire doors mounted in internal doorways are helpful in creating barriers for cats.
- Establish boundaries in your house so your pets know they aren’t allowed in certain areas.
- Rub some baby lotion and creams on your hands and let your pet smell these scents.
- Let your dog see the baby’s bassinet or cot, pram and change table. Encourage them to walk around, smell and investigate the baby equipment while under your supervision.
Once your baby is born
Things to consider once you're ready to introduce your baby to your pet:
- Always supervise your dog around your baby. No matter how gentle your dog, never leave them alone with the baby. Children aged 0-4 years are at the greatest risk of hospitalisation for dog attack injuries. Around 80% of dog attacks happen in the family home, or the home of a family member or friend.
- Don’t force your pet to ‘meet’ the baby. Let your pet take their own time and expect them to be unsure and probably nervous. Reassure your pet by stroking and patting them. Have some of their favourite toys and treats close by so you can reward their positive responses.
- Introduce the scent of the baby to your dog by offering them a piece of the baby’s clothing or a wrap.
- Bring your dog to meet the new baby when they’re on a leash.
- Unwrap the baby’s feet so your pet can smell them.
- Try to invest some one-on-one time with your pet each day. They’re likely to feel a bit left out, especially if you’ve always given them lots of undivided attention.
Should I take my pet to the vet before my baby comes home?
It’s important to make sure your pet is healthy and up to date with their vaccinations and any treatments they require. Neutering (spaying) domestic pets often makes them calmer and easier to manage.
Be mindful that pets can transmit infections and parasites to humans. Have your pet vet-checked during your pregnancy and before your baby is born.
How do I introduce my newborn to my pet?
No matter how you decide to introduce your pet to the new baby, it’s important to always be present to supervise them. Pets and babies should never be left alone, no matter how well trained or well behaved the animal may be.
How to introduce my dog to my new baby
Give your dog time to become used to the new baby. No matter how smart your dog or how adaptable, they won’t have the mental capacity to understand that they need to be gentle and calm around the baby. Try to stay relaxed and reassuring when your dog and baby meet each other. Your dog will be attuned to your feelings and responses; it will help if you are relaxed.
If you are confident that your dog won’t jump, bite or become too excited, let them smell the baby while you are holding them. Have another trusted adult with you so they can also supervise these early interactions and take the dog away if needed.
How to introduce my cat to my new baby
Expect your cat to be a little more disinterested in the new baby than your dog may be. Let your cat smell the baby while you’re holding them. Watch your cat’s body language which may indicate they’re about to hiss or scratch.
Make sure you close the door to the room where the baby will be sleeping. Cats tend to find the warmest and coziest spot to sleep, which could be the baby’s bassinet or cot.
Should I make any changes to my home?
During your pregnancy, watch your pet’s behaviour and where they go in the house. Start early by giving your pet clear instructions that some areas will now be out of bounds. Be clear, consistent and patient as they learn new routines.
You may need to get into the habit of closing bedroom doors in the home, or using baby gates to create barriers.
What if my pet feels left out?
It’s important to make sure your pet is not ignored when the new baby comes home. It can help to make some early changes in the attention you normally offer your pet. Try to encourage more ‘alone’ time when you’re pregnant so your pet feels comfortable in their own company.
Teach your dog to sit quietly on their mat or in their crate and praise their ‘good’ behaviour.
Importantly, be kind and patient as your family members get used to each other.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: April 2023