All pets, whether they
are kept indoors or outside, should be in good health, show no evidence of
disease, and be friendly toward children. The following suggestions benefit
your pets and may also help protect young children from both illness and
Immunize cats and dogs, and use flea-, tick-, and
Keep pet areas clean. Dispose of all pet
waste immediately. Keep litter boxes away from children.
neuter your pets. It can reduce aggressive behavior.
Train and prepare dogs
you have a dog, train and prepare it for contact with children. Many dogs will
try to dominate children because of their small size. Also, some
children aren't well-behaved around animals. These things put children at
risk for injury. To help prevent such problems with dogs and other pets, you can:1
Redirect nibbling, pouncing, or
swatting behaviors to toys instead of people.
Get your pet accustomed to nail trims.
Closely supervise all
interactions between children and pets.
Pets and newborns
Be especially careful when
bringing a newborn home where a pet has enjoyed "only-child" status. Animals
can become jealous, aggressive, and defensive about trying to protect their
place in the family. Also, newborns don't act, smell, or sound human,
which may confuse pets. The weak, high-pitched cry of newborns may also sound
like prey to animals. Even a very loving, well-behaved pet can quickly
transform into predator mode with a newborn.
Try the following to
prepare your pet for sharing its home with an infant:1
Before the baby is born
Talk with your veterinarian or pediatrician if the thought of your newborn being around your pet makes you uneasy.
Slowly reduce the amount of time you spend with
your pet before the baby is born. This will help prevent an abrupt change in
the amount of attention your pet receives.
If your pet is quite attached to the mother-to-be, have another family member develop a closer relationship with the animal.
Train your pet to remain calmly on the floor beside you until you invite him or her on your lap.
If you have friends with infants, ask them to bring their baby to your home. Watch the pet and baby at all times.
Carry a doll
Talk to your pet about the baby, using the baby's name if you chose one.
If possible, play recordings of
baby noises, such as crying. Also turn on items such as baby monitors and
swings periodically to get your pet used to new sounds.
enrolling your pet in obedience school, and practice the techniques you learn.
After the baby is born
Before your pet meets your baby, have someone you know take an item
with the baby's scent (such as a blanket) to your pet. Have your pet sniff and check out the item before he or she is in the room with your baby.
When the baby comes home for the first time,
have a friend or relative stay with the baby in a different room while parents
reacquaint themselves with the pet.
Bring your pet with you to sit
next to the baby. Give the animal treats to develop positive associations with
Don't force your pet to be near the baby. This only
causes anxiety and increases the chance of injury.
Never leave a baby alone
with a pet. It only takes a moment for a pet to misbehave and cause a serious
Although extra time can be hard to come by when you have a
newborn, try to spend some one-on-one time with your pet each day.
To help reduce the risk of fur or dander bothering your baby's airways, you can keep your pet out of your baby's sleeping area. When you play with your baby on the floor, place your baby on a clean blanket or mat to help keep dust, carpet fibers, fur, and dander away.
Pets and young children
Children will likely encounter pets whether or not they have them in
their own home. Teach your children how to approach animals, and set rules. For example:2, 3
Don't bother pets while they eat, sleep, or are with their
Wash your hands after touching pets or pet items.
unknown dogs or cats.
If you have reptiles, amphibians, rodents, ferrets, or baby chicks or ducklings as pets, don't let these pets roam freely. Keep them away from your kitchen or
other food-preparation areas. And don't allow your child younger than 5 to be around these animals at all. This can help prevent infection, injury, and allergic reactions.
Also, teach children how to react if they are confronted with
an aggressive pet. The following apply specifically to dogs, but some concepts
can apply to other household pets:
Never scream and run. Stand still, with your
hands at your sides. Avoid looking directly into the animal's
Keep avoiding eye contact, and slowly back away after the dog
If a dog attacks, put an object between you and the
animal—a coat, bike, ball, or anything that you happen to have with you.
If the dog makes you fall, curl into a ball with your hands over
your ears, and stay still. Don't scream or roll around.
Other Places To Get Help
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Healthy Pets Healthy People
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
This CDC website has advice for preventing infections that can arise from contact with pets (including exotic pets). There are tips for interacting with animals, keeping your pet healthy, and more.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.