Introducing the baby to a traumatized pet

Some of you may remember from my Lifestyle Blog that I adopted Daisy back in 2014. Daisy suffered a lot in her first few months and it stuck with her. We knew it bringing Benjamin home was going to be a huge deal for her. Today I am sharing with you how it went. 

Daisy was mistreated as a kitten and, even to this day, she scares easily. She hides when we have guests and only ever comes out with those she really trusts. And even then it is just very briefly and always ready to run. Needless to say, I wanted the transition from “only child” to “big sister” to go smoothly. I researched a lot, talked to her vet and even explained to her that inside the bump she loved so much to lay on was a baby that would soon come out. I found a lot of useful tips and some that I knew wouldn’t work with her and her personality. 

INTRODUCING THE BABY TO A TRAUMATIZED PET

I am convinced Daisy knew when Benjamin was coming. It makes sense: the body’s hormones change when the labor is imminent and animals have a keen sense of smell. My very cuddly and needy cat went from being ON me at all times to not be in the same room. She would sit in the hallway in front of the office door, but wouldn’t get near me. When my water broke, she was lying across our bedroom door. She knew it was coming. But did she know what “it” was? I don’t know. She loved to rest her head on my bump. I do think she knew I was pregnant, even if she didn’t understand it. 

While I was at the hospital, Daisy was very nervous. She would cry out when Markus came home, sniffing him and looking at the door for me. I wanted to make the transition to bringing Benjamin home as smooth as possible, while still making sure she wasn’t too stressed.

BEFORE THE BABY COMES HOME

Some experts defend the pet should be taught not to go to the baby’s things even before it is born. I found some tips saying the pet shouldn’t be allowed into the baby’s room. However, I knew right away that was not the right approach for us. I completely agree that a pet should not sleep in the baby’s crib because it is harder to stop the habit once it is set. But I also knew she wouldn’t get near that crib once the baby was home. Daisy did try to sleep in the crib, but I would always take her out when I saw it. Eventually, she stopped going in there. But it was important to me that she wouldn’t be afraid of Benjamin’s things, or else she would always fear him!

I can only imagine how nerve-racking it is for her to see things change around the apartment and not understand why. So, I let her sniff his clothes, his crib, and his car seat. They obviously didn’t smell like him yet, but this way she got used to the things. By showing her those things and changes were harmless, she saw them in a positive light. I let her investigate the crib and took her out of it when she wanted to nap there. She soon lost interest in it. (also needless to say: we changed the sheets before letting Benjamin sleep in there!

COMING HOME WITH THE BABY 

We got home four days after Benjamin was born. In that time, Daisy got used to his scent on Markus. When we got home, we set the car seat down and I pet her and greeted her. She was ecstatic to see me and I let her sniff me. Markus then set the car seat, where Benjamin was still in, on the couch and we waited. We waited while she approached it and sniffed the seat. She got pretty close to Benjamin too – up to his hand. Then he let out a sigh and she humped off of the couch very scared. I guess she hadn’t noticed there was a living being bundled up in the seat! 

The first day Daisy was very on edge. She wasn’t quite sure if she was happy and she probably wanted to see if we would “keep” him. She did throw up once and wanted to do it a few more times, out of stress, but we managed to calm her down. The next day she even sat three meters away from us and observed Benjamin while he got his bottle. That may seem far away, but for her, it was overcoming her fears!

EIGHT MONTHS AFTER INTRODUCING THE BABY

Benjamin loves Daisy. He smiles and coos and screeches and does all types of sounds when he sees her. She tends to ignore him most of the time. Sometimes she provokes him, by lying right next to him and turning. Since he started crawling, she has made the couch (or any higher surface) her home. She used to lie next to him but has kept her distance after he yanked a whole hand full of her fur. In his defense: he was trying to pet her. 

Daisy isn’t scared of Benjamin anymore, at all. She actually looks at me very judgementally if he cries out loud. And she’s always looking where he is. Today she even let him pet her. 

I am sure Benjamin and Daisy will end up being best friends in time. The way we introduced Benjamin to Daisy was the right way for US. If you have a pet that is nervous or traumatized it may be hard to introduce a new family member, but it is not impossible! 

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