The story appears on

Page B15

December 20, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Animal Planet

Keeping pets in the family

SAFETY concerns take on a higher priority when an expecting mom is co-habiting at home with a precious family pet. Some couples have mixed feelings, many questions and understandable concerns once a baby is on the way.

Some even sacrifice the pet to ensure that the pregnant mom stays comfortable in a secure and safe environment.

Dogs rarely have been found to pose health risks for a mother and her developing baby during pregnancy. The likelihood of any problem is extremely low, but if the dog is heavy and in the habit of jumping on you, it would be best to begin training the practice out of the animal.

However, things change with dogs once the baby arrives. Young children are the most frequent victims of a dog's involuntary response, such as nipping or biting, due to the baby's innocent, exploratory poking, pulling hair or crawling up behind and startling dogs.

But pregnant women must be aware that toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite called toxoplasma gondii, can cause problems with pregnancy, including abortion. This parasite is carried by cats and is passed in their feces.

However, people are more likely to get toxoplasmosis from eating undercooked meat than from contact with pet cats.

By following simple safety tips, pregnant women can reduce the risk of getting toxoplasmosis from cats.

These include: getting a health check for the cat if pregnancy is planned; have a non-pregnant person change the litter box every day; keep cats indoors; feed cats only canned or dried commercial cat food, never give them undercooked or raw meat; avoid adopting or handling stray cats.

After the baby's arrival, the first thing to do is to help the pet "baby" adjust to the new one as soon as the child comes home from hospital.

Remember, the dog or cat was your first "baby" and is used to being the center of your attention. So it's understandable that he or she may experience something akin to jealousy or sibling rivalry when you introduce a new "being" into the household.

It is possible to minimize these feelings.

For example, because your new baby will occupy a lot of your time and energy, you can gradually accustom the pet to spending less time with you.

If the pet is particularly attached to the mother-to-be, another family member should develop a closer relationship with the animal. That way, the pet can still feel loved and provided for while mom is busy with the baby.

Or you can use a baby doll to help the pet get used to the real thing. Carry around a swaddled baby doll, take the doll in the stroller when you walk your dog, and use the doll to get your pet used to routine baby activities, such as bathing and diaper changing.

So, obedience and leadership play a huge role in keeping the balance during unavoidable changes.

Dogs are more comfortable when they know what is expected and exactly what to do. It is no secret that pregnancy leads to an emotional roller coaster for all family members including the family dog!

Another important thing to take into consideration is to accustom the pet to baby-related noises well before the baby is expected.

For example, play recordings of a baby crying, turn on the mechanical infant swing, and use the rocking chair. Make these positive experiences for your pet by offering a treat or playtime.

After baby arrives, you should discourage the pet from jumping on anything, especially the baby's crib.

Talking to your pet about the baby, using its name if you've selected one, is another effective way to let the pet accept the new baby.

Also, you can sprinkle baby powder or baby oil on your skin so the animal becomes familiar with the new smells.

If you have a cat, you should start stopping it from using certain rooms, such as the baby's room or a play room. Cats are very territorial and it is best to get them familiar early with changes in their territory.

To prevent anxiety or injury, never force your pet to get near the baby, and always supervise any interaction.

Life will no doubt be hectic caring for the new baby, but try to maintain regular routines as much as possible to help the pet adjust.

Overall, don't be too concerned about the ramifications of a baby and a pet living together in the same house. But pay more attention to managing the solutions.

There are many benefits in raising children in the company of pets, such as the development of responsibility, love, loyalty and affection. With proper training, supervision and adjustments, you, your new baby and your pet should be able to live together safely, happily and harmoniously as one bigger family.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend