Babies and Animals
So I decided to jump back to some mom topics for a bit. I loved reflecting on some trips, but it made me look at maps and flights way too much. Now I want a vacation even more! While I was sitting dreaming about where I want to go next I saw Oliver crawl over to Dude, tug on his ear and crawl away. Dude didn’t react at all and it made me so happy that he is so patient with Oliver. While our animal-baby relations may not be 100% perfect, I thought it would be worthwhile to explain how we brought Oliver home to the animals and how we’ve tried to create positive relationships between them. I had a few people tell me that once I had my baby, I would probably get rid of my animals. I was dead set on that not happening. My fur babies are a part of my family and I can’t imagine getting rid of any of them. For that reason, I needed them to get along with Oliver. So I researched how to introduce the animals to our new addition and started getting the animals of the house ready for his arrival.
Many of you may know the menagerie that lives in our house, but for those of you that don’t here’s the breakdown.
We currently have 2 dogs.
Dude is a medium sized mutt who is about 8. We’ve had Dude since he was a puppy and we were sure that his high energy was puppy energy and would fade over time. We were wrong. He’s very high energy. He’s doing much better now that he has a yard he can run around in whenever he wants to. But he can definitely still be an ass sometimes.
Pancho is a Chihuahua who is about 100 years old. Really, we think he’s actually around 15 years old. We got him from our friend who had to suddenly move out of his house and couldn’t find somewhere pet friendly in a short time, Moab is hard for pet owners. We took him in about 3 years ago and to be honest we didn’t think he had much time left, but he is still kicking. He’s definitely old and grumpy but at the same time he acts like a puppy.
We also have 2 cats.
The Little One, and yes that’s her name, is also about 8. We got her from a pet store when I was in college. The pet store took in stray cats that we found around town and rehomed them which was great because the shelter there was a kill shelter. Mauricio and I were there getting stuff for Dude and I fell in love with her, but we didn’t take her home right then. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and I asked Mauricio if we could go back to the pet store a few days later and if she was there I wanted to bring her home. And there she was! She’s a very sweet and loving cat who pretty much does her own thing.
Then we have Katniss who is about 5. We got her after I lost another cat. I was really upset about losing him and I saw someone getting rid of this kitten on facebook. Mauricio didn’t push back at all when I said I wanted her, I think because he knew how sad I was about losing my other cat. Katniss is fat and clumsy but also super sweet and will force you to cuddle with her when she wants to. Until she decides that she’s done with you, then she’ll bite you and run away.
The cats don’t like a lot of commotion and typically hide when people come over so a lot of people forget that we even have cats. But when it’s just us at home they are very much so here.
Finally, we have 2 turtles, Rose and Mary. We’re kind of like Noah’s Ark with our animals coming in pairs. Except for the fact that the dogs are both male, and the cats and turtles are all female. Anyways. The turtles are red eared sliders and we’ve had them about 5 years. I wanted turtles because I’d seen tons of videos of turtles eating fruit and being cute. Let me just tell you now, they aren’t that cute. I gave them fruit and they basically body slammed it and had to get washed off before getting back in their water. Kids love them though.
Whenever kids are at the house they are fascinated with the turtle tank. With supervision kids can feed them but there isn’t really much to do with them other than that. They’ll bite if you put your fingers over the water, they get mad and kick you if you hold them and they basically just want to escape if you let them out of their tank. Despite all of that, I like them. We briefly thought of getting rid of them, but instead we upgraded their stand and I like them even better now.
As for Oliver, while he’s a baby all I really have to worry about is him not tugging on the cords that lead up to the lights and filter, but they mostly are behind the tank where he can’t reach anyway. Eventually I think I’ll put child locks on the cabinet with their food and chemicals just to be safe, but he hasn’t discovered cabinet doors yet, so we’re still safe.
I did a lot of research about how to get your fur babies ready for your human baby and there is so much information and so many suggestions on the internet. But this is what I did. Starting when I was about 6 months pregnant, every now and then I would pull up a video of crying babies on YouTube and play it in the house. This was supposed to get the animals used to the sound of crying so that when Oliver came they didn’t freak out the first time he cried. I can’t really say if it did anything or not. When I would play the videos there was basically no reaction from the animals. But they also never reacted crazy to Oliver crying. Was it because of the videos? Or do they just not care? I don’t know. The Little One is pretty much the only animal that reacts to Oliver crying. She pretty much just leaves the room when she’s heard enough.
Another thing that I started doing around the same time was giving the animals some rough attention. By rough attention I mean pulling on their ears a little, grabbing their skin and tails. When I write that it sounds bad, but I just mean barely doing those things. I wasn’t yanking their ears or anything. But I did want them to be a little used to a tug here and there. Dude was by far the most tolerant of all that, he just loves any attention. The cats were a little weirded out by it, but they let me do it and if they weren’t feeling it they’d just leave. That was exactly the reaction I was hoping for. Pancho, on the other hand, is so old and frail that I figured the best approach with him would be to do my best to keep the baby away from him.
I believe this worked good for the animals. Dude seriously does not care what Oliver does to him, he pulls his ears, waves his tail around, grabs his skin and Dude just lays there. Then if he’s had enough, he walks away.
The cats for the most part keep their distance from Oliver, but every now and then they’ll come near and when they do it has gone great. Katniss comes around him a lot more than The Little One but they’ve each experienced their share of firm grasps and ear pulls. They just give Oliver a nasty look at run away when that happens. Lately I’ve been working on showing Oliver how to pet them gently, with an open hand. He watches me pet them with my fingers stretched way out and then typically he’ll do the same thing. I’m hopeful that at some point he will just know that is how he should pet animals, time will tell.
Bringing Baby Home
By far the thing I was most nervous about with the dogs was bringing our new baby home. The dogs are always SUPER excited when we come home, even if we’ve only been gone for an hour. So I knew that when I came home after being gone for a few days they would be wild. I was scared that Dude would jump up and hit the baby, or somehow knock him out of our hands. There was a lot of advice online about training your dog in advance to listen and not jump. While that is all fine and dandy, I knew I had to prepare for insanity when I came home. We did two things to help curb their excitement a bit.
The first thing that I found important was taking something home from the hospital for the animals to smell. Mauricio went home to shower and change (and nap) after Oliver was born and he took a hospital blanket that Oliver had been wrapped in. He showed it to the dogs and had them smell it so they could familiarize themselves with Olivers scent before he came home. He left it at home for the cats to smell, and I hope that they did. Animals are so scent driven, learning that new smell I think is critical for their acceptance. Having them shove their noses in a blanket that smells like the new baby is way better than having them shove their noses in the new baby.
When we made our way home we decided that since the dogs hadn’t seen us for a while, it would be best to go in and say hi to them before bringing Oliver inside. Since Mauricio had been home the evening before, I went in first. The dogs were super excited and I spent a few minutes petting them and saying hi before going back outside. Then Mauricio went in and did the same thing. When we both came in with the baby the dogs were excited, but not jumping around like crazy. We were able to come in and set Oliver down and have Dude slowly come over and smell him while he was still in his carseat. Since he was a little bit familiar with the scent, he didn’t go crazy trying to smell him, he just gave him a few sniffs and looked up at us. It went just as good as I could have hoped.
Living with the animals
Since the initial dog meeting went well I was really optimistic for all of the animals to meet Oliver. I let the cats take their time and come up to him on their own. They both approached him on day one, but they kept their distance until they got a bit more familiar with the new addition to the house.
Over a few days they got closer and even cuddled up to him. As he’s gotten more active and mobile, The Little One has mostly kept her distance while Katniss approaches him occasionally.
Pancho basically didn’t care about Oliver at first. He would come and lay by him, but he never really interacted with him. Now that Oliver is mobile it’s a different story. We’ve had a few instances of Oliver grabbing Panchos leg. Pancho screams, and yes he screams, and runs away, but he doesn’t bite at Oliver. Since the first time that happened, Pancho is pretty good about getting out of Olivers way because he doesn’t want his legs touched. Pancho has been having a hard time lately, just because he’s so old. So I’ve had to be a bit more vigilant at keeping a hand between them when Oliver gets close. I’m glad that I only have one animal to worry about that with because with how much Oliver gets around now, it would be so hard to keep him from grabbing ALL the animals.
I’m sure the baby-animal situation will be constantly changing as Oliver moves into toddler ages, but so far I’m really pleased with the relationships in the house. I know as Oliver grows I need to emphasize being gentle with animals. And somehow I need to teach Dude personal space. He is so often right up in Olivers business, and Oliver has had many a lick to the face. But all of that has been well intended and gentle. Now that Dude knows Oliver eats and drops food on the ground, he’s become even more interested in him during mealtime. In turn Oliver has become more interested in the dog door and and going outside to watch the dogs run around the yard. I’m hopeful that Oliver and Dude will become best friends as the years go on.