In conjunction with Mother’s Day, we had the privilege to spend time with five mothers to share how they prepare their furbabies upon the arrival of their human babies.
With that said, there is no “right” or “wrong” way of preparing your furbaby for your baby and vice
versa, however, what is essential is that as parents and furparents to do something rather getting rid of your furbaby when your baby arrives.
Each of us has our own methods and as parents and furparents, it is our responsibility to find the best possible way to do so. Hence, it was our privilege to speak to five mothers about how they prepare their furbabies upon the arrival of their babies.
Barkery Oven: What did you do to prepare your furbaby upon finding out that you were expecting?
Jennifer Tennant: While I was first pregnant with my firstborn, my chihuahua was still in the picture.
And as he was pretty much the centre of our universe, my husband and I made it a point to keep things as balanced as we possibly could by involving him in all of the activities. For us, we did not want him to feel like he had been replaced in any way.
And after my baby was born, my dog would still sleep in our bed whilst my baby slept in the cot. We felt it was important, especially since he was not doing very well in terms of health. Animals are very emotional beings; hence, we need to be empathetic when adding a new member (baby) into the family.
Yiling Chai: When I found out that I was pregnant, I often let my dogs cuddle up to me so they can smell and feel my belly. This is because as the pregnancy progresses, our bodies undergo hormonal changes, and this will alter our scent slightly where some dogs can detect and sense that we are pregnant.
At the same time, I found also let them smell all the new baby items that I bought like clothes and toys, so they will get used to seeing baby items lying around the house. I will also let them enter the baby’s room to have a look as it was previously a spare room. I wanted to prepare them that the spare room will eventually be occupied in the future.
Michelle Kow: The moment I found out that I was pregnant, I started telling my dog that there was a baby growing in my womb and she was going to be an elder sister. I don’t know if she understood me, but I never stopped telling her that until my baby arrived. I would let my dog to sleep on my baby bump so that she knows what is going on. I even told her that things were going to change but assured her that I would always love her and not forsake her.
Elaine Lee: As I learned that I became pregnant, I decided to spend more time with my dogs just in case I would not have much time to spend with them when my baby arrives. So, I make sure that I wake up early every morning and come home on time from work to take them on long walks around the neighborhood. I’d say it is both a win-win for us – a healthy lifestyle for me and my dogs!
May Saw: Our huskies used to sleep in the same room with us, and when we found out that I was pregnant, we had to think about what we needed to prepare and how to make the changes. And as our new baby will be sleeping with us for the long term, our bedroom will not be sufficient to fit all of us (including my dogs). Thus, we slowly transitioned our furkids to a spare room downstairs for their night sleeping routine.
It did take us some time to clear and prepare the room as we want to make it as comfortable as possible for them – we even installed an additional air-conditioner in the room for our huskies. Eventually, they became comfortable sleeping in their new room.
We also opted to move them to a different room because huskies have the tendency to shed their inner coat which is not very healthy for a newborn baby. It was a big lifestyle change for them because, for the past five years, they have always slept in the same bed and room as us.
BO: When did you start the lifestyle changes for your pet? And how did your pet respond to the changes?
JT: We started at about 6 months because that was when the changes were pretty evident i.e., new sights and smells from the baby cot to new detergents, baby-safe floor wash, etc.
For us, we did not notice any adverse reactions as we made it a point to show him that he was still our number one.
YC: I started preparing my dogs after my first trimester – around the fourth month, however at that point in time, they did not seem to notice much nor respond to the changes around them.
MK: I have been living with my dog for five years and we have cultivated a very strong bond – literally she is my first child that I nurtured from the day I got her. So, when I found out that I was pregnant, I immediately wanted to build a bond between my dog and my dog who was still growing inside of me then. Although I do not know for sure if my dog understood, I want to believe she did. And the funny thing was, my dog kept sniffing my womb often in the early months, so perhaps, she knew that I was pregnant!
EL: I started the lifestyle changes as soon as I found out that I was pregnant. My pets were delighted to spend so much time with me. And knowing that I was pregnant, they became more needy and clingy as all they wanted to do was to cuddle with me all day long.
MS: The changes began when I was about three months pregnant – we wanted to start as early as we could. That said, one of our furkid, Terra, did not adapt very well as she was particularly clingy to us, and she made a few accidents (pee and poo) in her bedroom.
She was scratching the door from time to time. However, it got better after a week of constant routine, and today, they are well adapted to the changes.
After my daughter was born, we tried to keep a distance between our dogs and our new-born as we weren’t sure how they would react to her, and we were afraid of their rough play. So, we made them not to come too close to our daughter unless it was called upon.
Barkery Oven: In your opinion, do you believe it is important to prepare your pet for the arrival of your baby? If yes/no, why?
JT: Personally, it depends on the nature of the relationship you have with your pet. If you have an indoor pet that you treat as your baby, naturally, if you get a new baby, there will be implications.
At the same time, it is important to take note that not all pets are like children. Hence, if this is something you observe, you need to prepare not only your pet but also your child. The relationship works both ways at the end of the day.
YC: Yes, I believe it is important to prepare your pet for all new arrivals. Some pets are protective over their humans and may be jealous of the new baby/child where they could see the child as a threat or intruder.
Some pets and breeds are not very good with babies or small children, in which they would need more time to prepare and adjust to a new addition to the family.
MK: Yes, it is important to prepare your pets as they do have feelings. So, I did whatever to prepare my dog as I did not want her to feel as though we are abandoning her. That is the last thing I want her to feel about our love for her.
EL: Yes, I think it is essential as dogs are actually sensitive creatures. So, they might feel hurt if we suddenly spend lesser time with them.
MS: Yes, it is essential. Just like any other siblings – be it humans or four-legged, they need to be prepared and parents also need to mentally prepare for the changes as well.
BO: Upon the arrival of your baby, what was the initial response of your pet towards your child?
JT: With my firstborn, my chihuahua was quite ill and even though he never liked children, he was calm. He then passed away four days after my daughter was born – and I honestly felt like he held on till my daughter arrived. So, I know he would have loved her.
With my second born, my two outdoor dogs were already used to having my first child around, so, I did not need to prepare them as much. I did notice a lot of curiosity though as they kept coming into the house to see what the new noise was. I found it very cute.
YC: While I was still in the hospital after giving birth, my husband took the blanket that was used to swaddle my daughter and brought it home to let my dogs smell it.
This was to allow them to get to know the baby’s scent so when we bring her home, it will not be unfamiliar to them, and not treat her as an intruder. We did the same for our second baby.
When I brought my baby home for the first time, my dogs were curious and interested as they wanted to smell and see the baby. Overall, they were calm and accepting of the new addition to my family.
MK: My dog would normally bark at strangers be it adults, children, or babies. However, strangely, when we brought my dog home (she was staying with my in-laws while we were at the hospital), not only she did not bark but was protective over my daughter.
EL: Upon coming home, my dog was protective over my son, and whenever my baby would cry, my dog will be the first to run to check on him.
MS: My dogs were mostly curiously but were very gentle around my daughter. During the time of our baby’s arrival and my confinement period, we place our dogs at a pet hotel for about two weeks as we needed time to settle back at home and to spend quality time with our newborn before bringing our dogs back home.
BO: What are some challenges did you face while training your dog to understand the changes in both of your lives?
JT: The biggest challenge I faced with my pets was getting them to understand and adjust to the fact that we no longer had all the time in the world for them. In the beginning, they were quite destructive, but over time, they adapted to the change.
Adding a new member of the family means in a couple of years, your pets will have the love and care of not just you and your spouse but also the new family additions.
YC: The first few weeks after having the baby was challenging. As a first-time mom then, I was overwhelmed and tired, I could not give full attention to my dogs.
They were used to having me all to themselves and after my baby’s arrival, things were different for some time while we were learning how to take care of a newborn. After the first three months, things went back to normal when we had established a routine.
MK: I’d not say it was a challenge, but I recalled once my dog almost snapped at my baby. We were quite worried, thinking if my dog might be jealous. From then on, my husband and I learn to be more sensitive toward my dog’s feelings.
Also, even though we have bigger responsibilities and are unable to spend as much time as before, we make it a point to ensure her needs are met and spend quality time with her when my baby is asleep.
EL: It was quite a smooth sailing transition, so we did not face any challenges.
MS: The most challenging part is having to see my dogs not sleeping in my room anymore. It was more of myself rather than my dogs as they adapted very well to the changes and with each other.
BO: What are some pointers you would like to share with “pawrents” who are expecting their first child?
JT: Here are my pointers: pay attention to cues – your pet will tell you how he or she is feeling. Look out for more drastic cries for help – one of my dogs would not eat unless I was seated beside her, she gradually outgrew but, in the beginning, we had no choice but be there for her.
Be patient – it is not just an adjustment for yourself and your pets. It is also an adjustment for your child. Although your pets were there first, your child will have to learn how to handle your pets, and this takes time.
One of my dogs snapped at children, so you have to take time to teach your child what to do and what not to do. Lastly, one size does not fit all – every pet reacts differently to change and at the end of the day, you know your pet best. If you notice a change that is happening for the worst, deal with it then and there before it becomes something that cannot be fixed.
Prevention is always better than cure!
YC: Prepare all your pet’s necessities before your baby’s arrival and make sure there is someone to feed them and take them out for their walks on time if you’re unable to do it yourself. This will take some pressure off you, and it is one less thing you need to worry about.
MK: Always communicate with your pet about what’s going on regardless of whether you think they understand or not. One thing I know for sure is every living thing including pets of course has feelings. Make them be part of your life!
I know this is rather tough as I am going through it right now but do your very best not to neglect them. I am not just talking about fulfilling their basic needs (i.e., food, bath, etc) but also spending quality time with them (i.e., treating them with treats, playing with them, walking them at the park, etc).
If you are unfamiliar with what’s going on and start questioning why your dog is behaving a certain way, Google and read! Talk to friends who are in similar situations. Don’t wonder and feel lost in what to do.
Lastly, try to include both your baby and dog in spending quality time together. I noticed for my dog, although she was protective over the baby, she has still not gotten used to having her presence around.
In managing this, I would always try to make the connection between my dog and the baby so that they can interact with one another. My baby loves interacting with my dog, but it is still figuring things out. One step at a time!
EL: Do not be so hard on yourself if you feel you can’t spend as much time with your pets anymore when your baby arrives. Enjoy each and every moment you have watching your pet and child grow together. These moments fly by really fast. Take many photos and videos to capture this sweet memory so that you can treasure it forever.
MS: Prepare as early as you can. Do also think about your pets and make the proper arrangements for them the sooner the better.
Photo by Matilda Wormwood: Pexels