Countless articles are discussing the pros and cons of having pets in the home when you have newborns, and it is a topic that causes concern for parents. You instinctively feel wary of anything that might pass on diseases or cause injury to your babies, even if the anything is a beloved family pet. The articles covering this topic usually come out in favor of having animals, because research has shown that living with dogs and cats can result in an increase in beneficial gut bacteria, which is vital for health, plus the risk of children developing allergies is significantly reduced. Pets are also valuable as companions and for the many things your child can learn from them. What isn’t discussed so often is the impact of your pets on you, the parents; are they still part of the family, or do they become a nuisance and yet another stress to deal with?
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Why pets rock when you’re a new parent
There are two main benefits to having animals when you’ve got young babies. Firstly, they can act as an emotional security blanket, always there to cuddle you or soak up your tears of frustration and fatigue. They will listen to you telling them about all the things on your mind, show you affection, and they never let you down. However healthy and easy your babies are, you are bound to feel overwhelmed and exhausted at times, and if you are struggling with sick babies or ones who have trouble settling, these feelings are very much magnified. Pets can also help you if you have the blues and are struggling to get outside. If you have a dog, it must be walked, and this could be the motivation you need to get yourself out in the fresh air.
Why sometimes they don’t rock so much
Even the loveliest pets can be noisy, destructive and dirty to varying degrees. If you’re finding it hard to manage the vacuuming as well as caring for your little ones, having pets makes the build-up of hair, dander and other detritus that they trail in from outside that much worse, and you may despair at how quickly your home becomes dirty and untidy. If the pets are feeling disrupted or neglected because of the new babies, they may start soiling indoors, or chewing and scratching things they shouldn’t, like the furniture. You will probably be changing the babies’ diapers every few hours and thus be pretty fed up with unpleasant bodily functions, but you’ll still need to go outside and pick up any pet bombs, so sometimes it can feel like your whole day revolves around sorting out poo. Having new babies will almost certainly increase household expenses, putting a squeeze on your finances and adding another element of stress to your day. The amount it costs to feed and care for your pets can then start to seem like more of a luxury than a necessity.
Finding the balance
Everyone’s situation will be unique, and a lot will depend on the temperament of your pets and your ability to cope with both babies and furry friends. If your pets are fairly laid back, well-trained and don’t have any behavioral issues, they will often adapt to the change in circumstances quite readily. If you have pets that have suffered any trauma, especially rescue pets who may well have been abused, they can be quite upset by the changes to their homes, and need far more reassurance and support. The type of pet can make a difference too. Dogs will give you more of the affection and emotional support that keeps you going, but they also need a lot more attention than cats.
Making it work
Be prepared before the babies arrive. Make sure your pets are used to children of all ages and don’t leave your pets out when it comes to giving attention and affection. See if you can find a friend or neighbor who could walk the dog for you a couple of times a week, or whenever you need some help, or register with an agency that matches animals up with people that are looking for a dog to walk but aren’t in a position to have their own. Make sure their worming medications are up to date, and they are free from fleas and ticks by treating them with pest killing treatments like Pet-Lock. Take the pets up to meet the babies as soon as you can, that way they will become accustomed to the presence of the tiny little humans.
If it doesn’t work out
Sometimes, no matter how much you might want it to be otherwise, pets and babies aren’t suited to live together. You might then have to face the decision to say goodbye to your pets. Rehoming is the best solution, as long as you can find suitable new owners. Don’t be one of those callous people who drive their dog to a remote spot and sets it free. It won’t run off to live a life of freedom in the woods; it is much more likely that it will get hit by a car, or end up starving and miserable. The animal is your responsibility, so even if you feel that you can’t keep it any longer, make every effort to find a suitable new home where it will be happy and well cared for.
Knowing that you have a special friend who will always be there for you can be such a comfort when you are coping with new babies, and just the act of stroking an animal can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, helping you to stay calm and relieving stress. When the first few difficult months are over, you’re likely to be grateful to have your pets around for the children too, as bringing kids up knowing how to treat living creatures and learning to respect all forms of life is an effective way of helping them to grow up as well-rounded human beings.