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Norwich Bulletin - 3/28/2010

Mom, Dad, Pet And Baby Make Four

So you are having a baby! Congratulations. What? You have a cat and a dog and you canít keep them anymore because youíre pregnant? I am definitely not the person to call if you are looking to get rid of your pets just because you are having a baby. Women have been having babies since the beginning of time and have kept their pets at the same time. I will be glad to guide you and rid you of your foolish superstitions. With just a little bit of time and effort, you can be a total and complete family Ė Dad, Mom, Baby, Dog and Cat! So donít be foolish enough to tell me you need to place your pets when you are pregnant. You wonít like my answers.

We at Helping Paws believe that you owe it to your animals that you promised to love and care for, to learn about the simple precautions you need to put into effect in your home. You are the responsible parent for your furry children. After all, you wouldnít place the baby to get a kitten or a puppy, so the same should be said for the opposite.

A new baby is a time of joy and should be for everyone, including the family pets. It should not mean that one family member gets displaced so a new one can come in. The easy truth is that pregnant women, cats, dogs and newborns can safely live together. You just need to have a little common sense and some book smarts too.

Avoiding risks is the first step to take when you are pregnant and have a cat and dog. It is not a time to take your ninety pound dog for a walk, when it is poorly leash trained and will drag you halfway across the yard. And if you have never trained your dog to not jump, itís time to do it. You could be hurt while pregnant and your newborn could also suffer some serious damage if your pooch decided to jump while the baby is in your arms.

There is also no reason to avoid the cat, even though it makes sense to stay away from the litterbox while you are carrying, if possible. Toxoplasmosis is extremely rare, but it does exist. You also need to keep the dog away from the litterbox. Too many canines like to eat feces and that could cause multiple problems.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic protozoa that infects cats, dogs, humans and other animals. Cats usually have antibodies built up against the protozoa, but they can shed eggs until their immune system builds up those antibodies. Once they develop immunity, the protozoa is no longer effective and there is no further need for you to worry. But, there is really no way to be sure that your cat is in the process of building up its immunity or already has it, so you need to go to plan B. This is an easy preventative!

The protozoa takes up to five days after leaving the cat to be infective, so you simply need to be sure to scoop the litterbox daily (which everyone should be doing anyway). This way there is never a chance that the protozoa exists in your home. If you have a partner that will do the scooping for you, thatís great Ė if you are a single mother like my work friend Heidi, then simply wear gloves. There is no chance of infection. In fact, Heidi had six cats when she was a pregnant single mom, and took care of her feral cat colonies, and never once considered giving up any of her furry children.

Another risk for new parents with cats and dogs, is worms. This too, can be easily prevented. Many of the monthly spot flea products also prevent worms and other parasites. Simply put your pet on a program and keep them on it throughout your pregnancy. It is assumed that you are taking your animals in for their yearly checkups and you know they are healthy right from the inception of your pregnancy, so this should be a non-concern.

Most doctors are aware that there is almost no threat to a pregnant person who has a cat or a dog. If you are still stuck with one of those old fashioned, unenlightened doctors who still insist that you need to get rid of your pets, my suggestion is that you get rid of the doctor.

Since a new baby means lots of changes in your everyday life, there are certain preparations you can make. Have someone bring home a blanket from the hospital that smells like the new baby so that your cat and/or dog can get use to the smell of a new person that smells like you, but different. Before I brought Ally home, my husband put the blanket in the cat bed and both Schnitzel and Peaches slept on it together.

When I got home, Ally was just one of their siblings. The dog would lie under the crib listening to the baby breathe and protected her from all real or imagined dangers within the house. Our cat was allowed to be in the babyís room when we were there. Once the baby was over three months old, they actually slept with her. This is one of the reasons Ally has not allergies!

Many cats and dogs have no problems accepting the newcomer as long as you continue to give them their attention and let them know they are still important members of the family. Keeping them out of the babyís room is not a good idea as it alienated them from the new housemember and they think itís the baby that is keeping them out of the room. If your cat once got a lot of attention and is not getting any, chances are the cat will become depressed and may stop eating or using the litterbox.

These are stress related behaviors that can be changed in a relatively short time. Getting rid of the cat is not the answer Ė all you will be doing is totally traumatizing an animal that loves and trusts you because it will have no idea why you have abandoned it. Remember that cats and dogs are animals Ė they do not have hidden agendas. When they act out, they are trying to communicate with you and that is the only way they know how to. Make time for a play period each day and let your pet be the center of attention again for at least a little while.

The myth that a cat will suffocate a sleeping baby, is just that Ė a myth. Itís not just babies and cats that should not be left together unattended. All animals and babies need to be supervised. Thatís just good common sense. A cant and dog can continue to be great companions for the adult family members and love and protect the baby. So while your cat should not have free access to the crib at first, it is certainly fine to allow kitty and baby to interact together. Have you ever seen a babyís face light up when they touch a kitty? It says it all.

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