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Bringing Home Baby: Preparing Your Small Animal for a Newborn

Most of us consider our furkid(s) – whether a rabbit, a guinea pig, or a chinchilla – a beloved family member, right? We ensure they get the best veterinary care possible, buy gifts for them for holidays and their birthdays, and probably have more adorable pictures of them on our smartphone than anything else. We just develop a special, unbreakable bond with them that only other pet parents can really understand.

Adding a new human baby to the family may spark a mixed bag of emotions: Excitement, happiness, worry, fear. The good news is bringing your baby home can be a happy occasion for everyone, including your rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla if you know the steps to take to the make the process a smoother one.

Preparing for Baby

Fortunately, we have plenty of time to prepare before bringing home a new baby. Make preparing your rabbit/guinea pig/chinchilla a top priority. Here are a few tips on preparation:

Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian.

Having a baby is a huge deal. And, when it’s your first child, you’ll likely have tons of questions and concerns. That’s natural. If you’re worried about how your small animal will handle the transition, talk with your veterinarian

Make sure your rabbit or guinea pig is altered.

Hormones can result in normally sweet, docile small animals turning aggressive or cranky. That’s not good for your rabbit or guinea pig. Spaying and neutering is essential to their happiness and health. (Chinchillas should generally not be altered unless due to medical necessity.) If your little one is altered, make an appointment for the surgery well before your human baby is due to arrive. It takes a minimum of a month after altering for the hormones to completely leave the body. Altering a small animal often results in her being calmer and happier.

Continue with regular nail trimmings.

This is particularly important if your small pet is free run. You already know that a small animal can inadvertently scratch us, especially when they have long nails. Make sure you regularly trim her nails now and after the baby arrives. Adding it to part of your routine will make it easier to keep up with it when life gets hectic after baby comes home.

Consider where your small animal eats/drinks and uses the litter box.

Just like with the nail trimming, this is especially important to remember if your pet has free range. Look at where her food, water bowls, and litterboxes are placed. Are they easily accessible to a crawling baby in a few months? Find a place that offers your small animal privacy away from a crawling baby (and that she’s happy with) and that is easy for your to access to clean.

Provide plenty of safe spaces for your rabbit/guinea pig/chinchilla to hide.

Ensure your little one always has plenty of spaces to hide, especially if she’s free run. That way, she can easily find a safe space if the household excitement, including a crying baby, becomes too much for her. Remember, if you offer boxes as a hiding space, always make sure you have two ways in and out. Hiding spaces will be just as important as your baby starts to crawl around and explore.

Invest in baby gates.

You probably already have baby gates to ensure your rabbit, guinea pig, or chinchilla doesn’t get into rooms or places she shouldn’t. A baby gate can keep your small animal out of your baby’s room, if desired.

The day is almost here…

As your due date grows closer, start thinking about the immediate future. Who, for example, will care for your small animal when you’re in the hospital? Make the appropriate arrangements if a family member or a friend won’t be caring for your small animal.

In addition, find something – a towel or a receiving blanket, for example – you can take to the hospital. After your baby is born, wrap her in the towel or blanket to get her scent on it. Have a loved one take it home and give it to your small animal who can, in turn, investigate it and become familiar with the newborn’s smell.

Congratulations, it’s a newborn baby!

After months of anticipation, your baby’s finally here and ready to come home! Life’s about to change for your whole family, including your beloved pet(s).

Always supervise when your small animal and baby are in the same room.

Even if your small animal is extremely docile, play it safe and ensure you always supervise her around your baby and, as she grows older, continue supervising. If your small animal becomes stressed, put her somewhere – her pen or in a hiding box – she feels safe.

Stick to a routine as much as possible.

Small animals, like most of us, are creatures of habit. Your rabbit, for example, knows when it’s salad time and when it’s treat time. Try to stick to a routine, even if it’s a new one, after your baby comes home.

Make time for your furkids.

Your time is going to be at a premium now. But, try to carve out time each day to spend with your small animal, petting her and talking to her. Make her a part of family time and, if she’s in a cage or a pen, place it in a space that’s frequently used by the family.

Bringing home a new baby can be a huge adjustment for everyone. But, it’s possible to have a healthy, happy baby and healthy and happy rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.

References

The Humane Society

House Rabbit Society

Clarendon Animal Care

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