Expecting a Baby: Should We Adopt a Pet Before Baby -- or After?

Jeff Blevins

When it comes to family, for many animal lovers it’s not complete without a family pet. If you don’t already have an animal in your home, the general recommendation is to wait until your child is at least 3 three years or older before getting one. But if your heart’s set on getting a pet before baby arrives, take the following into serious consideration before making the leap. (Note: In this case by “pet” we mean dog or cat -- the most common household pets.)


  • Time: Do you have the resources available?
  • Cost: Can you afford this?
  • Safety: Animals can bite or injure -- especially around little kids.
  • Allergies: Could the new pet be a health hazard to your new baby?

Time


Having a newborn is extremely taxing on your time (and sleep). Adding another responsibility into the mix that needs attention, play, and feeding (especially for dogs), can be a lot to handle. Ask yourself: Do I need this right now?  Particularly if you are considering a puppy or kitten that needs to be trained and housebroken, factor in these regular time commitments to your newly sleep-deprived schedule:
  • Daily (sometimes multiple) walks and exercise
  • House or litter-box training
  • Litter-box cleaning
  • Vet visits
  • Feeding and watering
  • Attention and play
  • Grooming
There are lower-maintenance alternatives to traditional pets like dogs and cats. Fish, hamsters, and even reptiles can be more manageable “starter” pals. None of them are likely to be as needy and time consuming as a puppy. On the other hand, they aren’t particularly social.

Cost


Something else to consider when pet shopping is the cost -- especially right at the beginning. You will have to pay for things like vet visits (initial shots, annual visits, spaying or neutering), food, possibly training and daycare/walking, crates for transportation, and toys. Be sure your budget can handle the financial output in addition to what you’ll need to care for a newborn.

Safety


The most important reason to consider waiting to get a pet is the safety factor. Even docile animals can bite, especially when provoked, even when unintentional. Cats can bite too, but a dog bite can be a very serious situation (potentially fatal, in rare circumstances). In a 2006 study, babies up to 1-year-old were the most likely to be bitten by a dog they had unintentionally provoked. The study also noted that as children grow older and learn how to interact with their dogs, the likelihood of accidental provocation and a resulting bite diminishes substantially. Older equals wiser; both for the child and the pet.

If you already have a pet, make sure to carefully supervise any interactions between your furry and human babies. An innocent poke by a child could result in a sudden bite. A lot of this is also dependent on your pet’s personality. Some dogs are more high-strung or territorial than others, while some are super friendly all the time, welcoming new members of the family as theirs to protect. If you already have a pet, it’s vital to make sure it is properly trained prior to any interaction with your baby – interactions that should still be supervised at all times.

If you are a cat person, you know they come with their own special set of personality traits. Cats are attracted to the warmth of a baby’s body and have been known to curl up next to them. While the tall tales of cats stealing babies’ breath are just that -- they do like to jump, and have been known to leap into cribs out of curiosity. Take precautions and keep them separated when interactions cannot be supervised. Once children grow out of the infant stage and can move around on their own, the dangers generally subside. Accidental provocations can also be a factor with cats that also have teeth and sharp claws.

Allergies


Babies can also be born with allergies to your pet, a potentially serious situation that is avoidable. Pets can also be a source of not just allergies, but germs and diseases. Take this into consideration before making any decisions.

While it might be most practical to wait three years before getting into the new-pet game, some people want to start right away  for comfort, companionship, and as part of starting a family. Everyone’s situation is different when it comes to schedules, resources, etc. Take time to weigh all the pros and cons in your unique situation  to see if it works for your family before adding a pet to the mix.

Jeff Blevins is a published author who's left his footprint in the digital and scripted worlds. An entertainment industry veteran, his writing includes biographies, sports, automotive, education, and pop culture. The Seattle native -- and his keyboard -- live in Los Angeles.

 
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