Helping Pets Adjust to New Family Members

If you believe those "stress tests" we're all so fond of, it appears that happy events, such as marriages and new babies, are every bit as stressful as natural disasters. From a pet's perspective, that's certainly true: Marriage and babies throw an entire household off kilter, demanding new roles, new schedules, and compromises. Here's how to withstand the stress and win over your pet and your new partner. And remember, with a bigger family, there's more love to go around.

For Pets in General

Can Man's Best Friend Be Best Man?
Make certain that your intended knows just how attached you are to your animals. "Binky is like a member of the family, and he goes where I go" is a good way to put it. Or "I've always believed in treating cats like cats, not humans, so she stays outside, and I feed her on the back porch."

For Dogs and Cats

Sparky Could Be a Mother's Helper
Never make a decision to give up a well-loved pet before a baby is born. Hormones during pregnancy can really make a mom-to-be protective, so you need to wait until they've settled down a bit to decide whether your pet would genuinely pose a threat to the child. You'll be surprised at how quickly a dog or cat and a baby bond. Babies love to watch cats move around, and even the most cynical dog will get worried and summon you if the baby is crying. A baby's first word is often the pet's name.

For Dogs Only

How Can I Ever Make It Up to You?
Expect some one-sided sibling rivalry between your indoor dog and the newborn. Bowser won't appreciate the baby's demands for extra time and attention. See that he gets some extra attention, too, even if you can't give it yourself. Ask a persistent baby visitor to give Bowser some encouragement, a walk, or a treat, for example.

Solve Two (Potential) Problems at Once
Ask a two-legged sibling to keep Spot company more often, and sweeten the pot with a bit of extra allowance for "helping Spot adjust."

Two for the Two O'Clock Feeding
If you have a quiet, well-behaved adult dog, allow her to attend nighttime feedings, particularly if you ordinarily banish her to the garage or the backyard for the evening.

Hey, This Kid Came with Benefits!
Build a combined baby/dog walk into your routine as soon as your doctor gives the okay. That way, your dog will see that there are actually pluses to having a child in the house.

Rock-a-Bye, Binky, in the Treetop
Let the dog know that he's still important by working his name into the little nursery rhymes and songs you sing and the patty-cake games you play with the child. The pup will know you're talking about him and be pleased.

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