Can Babies and Pets Coexist?

I was raised around dogs all my life. I always knew I wanted one of my own someday. When my husband and I bought our house, I finally was able to make that dream a reality. My dog Riley came into my life. My husband isn’t a dog person, but he loves me and was willing to give it a try. He grew up surrounded by cats, and so when a stray stole my heart in the parking lot of my then-office, I brought him home (stopping off at the veterinarian’s first) as a surprise for my husband. Parker proved to be the perfect cat: affectionate, careful and patient.

Introducing the dog and the cat to each other was quite a challenge initially. Riley had been with us nine months by that time. My husband and I took a crash course approach, spending an entire day getting the two acclimated to each other. Riley started on the leash and we would spend five minutes with Parker, bundled up in a blanket before they’d be allowed to go into their separate areas to play. On and on it went, each time, they’d be allowed a little more free reign and time together, until both could be in the same room untethered, free to roam as they wished. At one point I was sure it would never work, but by the end of the day, Parker curled up next to Riley on the couch and the two have been the best of friends ever since.

Several years later, a new cat entered our lives, this time a 6 week old kitten we named Anya. The transition was easier in some ways but more difficult than others. Riley adjusted quickly. He was already used to Parker, after all. And Anya took to Riley almost right away. Parker wasn’t so easy to bring into the fold. It took him quite awhile before he was ready to welcome Anya into his heart. Now you can often find them cuddling and grooming one another. Through it all, my husband and I did what we could to make sure the animals knew we loved them still, doling out attention equally.

My cats and dog are an important part of my life and I love them dearly. We have battled illness, bad behavior, and spent many happy moments together. I knew that when my husband and I decided to have a baby that it would be an adjustment for all of us, a huge change in our way of life. I have never doubted, however, that we can make it work.

And so it shocked me when people started asking me if we plan to get rid of our pets, particularly our cats, once the baby comes, and the looks of disapproval I received when I said I would not. The thought never crossed my mind. I knew about the superstitions surrounding cats and how untrue most are. I’ve read the news articles about dogs mauling children. I know I will have to keep a close eye on the baby and the animals. It’s a given. Heck, it’s common sense! Safety hazards exist everywhere, whether a person has animals in the home or not.

The transition of having a baby in the home, as I said, will be challenging. My furkids will no longer be the center of attention. I do worry about how they will adjust, but having seen them adjust to each other, I know they can do it. I look forward to raising my child around animals, hoping she’ll develop love and compassion for them just as I have.

What preparations did you make in easing the transition for your animals when you brought your baby home? Did you find it to be an easy or difficult transition? What issues have come up since doing so, especially as your child grows older?

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rainbowg
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 09:43:47

    I have never had pets myself, so we had one less transition to worry about. From what I have heard from friends it is definitely possible to integrate pets and babies. The dogs get protective of the baby. I guess the one concern for cats is that they like to sleep on something warm, and that could be your babies head. A friend told me (and it was also covered by Dr Harry once) that one way to combat this is have a security door/flyscreen door installed for the nursery, so that you can still hear everything coming from the baby, but you don’t have to worry about cats getting in.

    Reply

    • Literary Feline
      Jan 22, 2011 @ 15:26:20

      I wouldn’t mind if my dog becomes protective of the baby. I worry about him as he is so attached to me. I would really like to make him feel like my “helper” if I can–and that way he can bond with the baby too.

      We won’t have an actual nursery for the baby until we move into our new house so until then the baby will be in my bedroom. Unfortunately, it’s not a room we can keep the cats out of because their litter boxes are kept in the master bathroom (there’s no where else for them in the house). I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to keep them out of the bassinet though, so I’m not too worried about that. And we won’t be leaving the baby and animals alone together at all.

      I do wish we were already moved–it’d make things so much easier!

      Reply

  2. caspette
    Jan 21, 2011 @ 19:29:42

    I have to admit my kitties tend to ignore our son. This is getting harder now he can crawl after them. They have never hurt him they just run out of reach. I guess we have been lucky, and the cats are great, also we dont have the dog angle to deal with.

    As for the cot again they largely ignore it. One cat does occasionally sleep in the cot but her “punishment” is to have her be patted by our son.

    I grew up around Rotti’s and we never had a problem. Just remember to not leave your pets alone with your baby and always supervise.

    Some suggestions for preparing your animals:
    – Play baby crying noises
    – Let your dog investigate the baby stuff
    – If your dog/cat are being banned from certain areas get them used to it now

    Pets and children can co exist fine. Dont listen to those idiots.

    Reply

    • Literary Feline
      Jan 22, 2011 @ 15:28:00

      I admit I worry most about when she’s old enough to want to play with the animals. Tails make very tempting playthings, you know?

      I love your punishment for your cat if she jumps into the baby’s bed. LOL

      Reply

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