Pet Connection: Start early to prepare pets for a new baby in the house

We are expecting a bumper crop of babies in our circle in the next few months, and of course, they all have pets. We thought it would be a good idea to review some of the best ways to ready pets for the new kid in town.

Begin now to prepare your dog or cat for this momentous change in the family.

▪  Prime your pet for the transition by making sure he has interactive toys that will keep him entertained when you are busy with the baby. Good choices include food puzzles, treat balls and other independent-play toys.

▪  Take your pet to the veterinarian to make sure he is in good health and free of parasites.

▪  Enlist the services of a trainer or behaviorist to help with any behavior problems – such as jumping up on people, aggression or fear issues, or house training mistakes – that you’ve been meaning to work on.

▪  Introduce baby noises through the use of a CD such as “Preparing Fido.” Play it at a low level, giving your pet his favorite treats, and then gradually increase the volume. The goal is for him to stay relaxed despite the unusual sounds.

▪  Cat owners, you may be concerned about toxoplasmosis. You can take some simple precautions to protect yourself and your baby from this infection. Keep your cat indoors so she can’t hunt and eat wild prey. Scooping the litter box once or twice a day will also minimize risk. Pregnant women should assign the task of scooping the litter box to their spouse or another family member. If that’s not possible, wear disposable gloves while scooping the box and wash your hands thoroughly after discarding them. Toxoplasmosis also can be acquired from soil, so wear gloves while gardening.

▪  Once the baby is born, have your spouse or another family member take home a blanket, diaper or other item that carries the baby’s scent. That person should let your pet sniff it and give him a treat and praise him as he does so.

▪  When you come home, greet your pet first without the baby. Then with a favorite treat or toy to give, let him meet Junior under your watchful eye. Always supervise interactions between pets and babies so you can teach them how to behave around each other.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Dr. Becker can also be found at or on Twitter @DrMartyBecker.