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Parents With New Babies and Pet Ownership

March 17, 2008 by Maria-Elena Cloherty, DVM

Far too often I hear a familiar scenario, whereby a couple is panicking about the fact they think they will need to get rid of their pet dog/cat because of their new baby. It is upsetting to me, given my love of and commitment to animals, to hear people first consider getting rid of, or re-housing a pet, before they have even asked for my or another professional’s assistance. Often these situations can be remedied by simple changes in a person’s behaviors which in turn impact an animal’s behavior. But to most lay persons this is not known, nor is the patience to pursue means of peaceful coexistence considered. Thus the pet is not given a fair chance to be assessed, and they are thus surrendered, abandoned, or neglected by their owners.

Our Relationship With Our Pets

Unfortunately, we live in a time when EVERYTHING is believed to be easily replaced and/or “disposable”, and this to me is a disturbing trend. For these animals, over the years, we have established a relationship, a bond in which we have becoming their everything-provider, protector, and friend. It is very sad to see how common it is that people can give up so easily and succumb to this idea that a pet is disposable, and better off elsewhere. Consequently, this is far from true. And in far too many cases, this results in the euthanasia of millions of animals each year- some because they are considered too old to be placed, and others because people assume they were “bad” with children and therefore do not want to take a chance with these pets.

It is a very common situation for a pet, which has lived as the “apple of one’s eye” for many years, to be a bit curious, upset by, or show resentment toward a newborn. To them it is the equivalent to being replaced by a new pet. Only in this instance, it is one that takes up all of their owners’ time, is sometimes kept away from them, makes horrific sounds/smells at times, and to which they are denied access thus preventing them from using their natural need to explore with all their senses.

A Time Investment in Getting Your Pets Comfortable

If one wanted to give a pet a chance to remain a member of their family, they would need to dedicate some time (frequently/intermittently) to allow each (the pet and the baby) exposure to the other, in a controlled situation. Over time, in many instances the pet would likely adapt, perhaps even become protective of what they may grow to see as “their new charge”. The child in turn, as it grows in understanding, may be taught appropriate means of interacting with pets, and how to enjoy their “new pal”.

Getting Professional Veterinary Assistance

Should one find they are having a more difficult time in getting their pets to interact appropriately with a child, then aid of an expert should be sought. A veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist, as a professional, can be called upon to give specific means of attempting to bring about a positive relationship. A behaviorist may even visit one’s home to see the pet in its natural surroundings and watch the relationships/interactions in person. They will then give their honest opinion of the likelihood that change can occur, and input as to how to bring about this change.

Final Thoughts
I do think it is best, if one has tried to follow the above-referenced path and to no avail to consider another circumstance for the pet, but only if there is NO OTHER WAY. As I have mentioned far too many of these pets are destroyed with minimal attempt in getting them a new home. And as “pet lovers” and civilized people, how can we knowingly contribute to an already sad statistic and betray a pet that we have sworn to love and provide for during its lifetime.


Topics: Pet Health | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Parents With New Babies and Pet Ownership”

  1. whosyerkitty Says:
    May 15th, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    My cats bolted out of whatever room I brought my baby into for the first 6-7 months! Even if they were sound asleep!

    I think the combination of new smells, new sounds and obviously a new little creature spooked them.

    They then started venturing in the room slowly, and would smell her if she was in my arms, but i had no trouble at all.

    I did make sure to give them extra attention during her naptimes, though.

  2. corri Says:
    May 29th, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I was asked once. Were we going to put our two “bostons” outside when our son arrive. Thanks goodness my mother-in-law intervened to my sister in laws question. NO what was that I thought. My dogs are way cleaner and friendlier than anykids he will probably meet at the daycare he would soon. No don’t kick out your pets my girls are wonderful they played toys really ruff for 8 years and have had our 100% dedicated. They don’t touch him unless I tell them too. They have never even once touched one of his toys. We did not teach them they respected him from the start. We had so many rude comments on these dogs and how were we going to have kids. I am amazed at that they mad me upset at the start and now I like what did that bother me for. IT just made all them LOOK STUPID! LOL Best wishes for the new Moms and FUR mom’s out there.

  3. Bobby Says:
    November 28th, 2008 at 9:11 am

    I completely agree that people have been conditioned to see most everything as replaceable or disposable. I just cannot understand how anyone could even consider abandoning or sending their pet away. I have 3 cats and a dog, all of which are members of my family. They are the equivalent of my children, and a permanent part of the family. As with children and other family members, you make adjustments and work together to establish harmony. A new baby does not and should not mean abandoning your beloved pet.

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