I can remember a day when my only children were furry – when water and food bowls were in plain sight and the only toys were catnip mice and rawhide chew toys. My pets ruled the roost. Today: three children, three cats and one dog later, they successfully share the roost.

I read an article when I was pregnant that suggested I give my pets the opportunity to smell the baby’s scent before he comes home for the first time. This was supposed to set the stage for a successful transition. So, I sent a baby blanket home several hours in advance of my newborn son and once he arrived, my pets circled him as I held him in my arms, with gentle curiosity.

From that point forward, I was convinced I could ease the transition of a baby in the house for my pets, and ensure the safety of my newborn.

Here are some general guidelines for keeping your baby safe around pets:

A Private Space

The cry of a newborn can be enough to put some dogs and cats on edge. Provide a special space or private refuge with a favorite blanket or bed for your pet that he can claim as his own. This gives your pet the option to take some time away from crying and chaos, which makes them calmer and gentler in the baby’s presence.

Establish Boundaries Near the Nursery

You should never leave your pet alone with your baby. Train your pet from early on to stay out of your baby’s room when you’re not there. A baby gate that keeps your pet out, but allows him to see and hear what’s happening in the room, is a great option.

Food Bowls

Keep the food and water bowl away from the baby. Babies love to play in them and, almost always, will try to eat from them. Pet food can definitely be a choking hazard. Also, pets can become territorial about their food if the baby is in his designated eating space.

Teach Your Baby From A Young Age

Once your child is old enough to grab tails and pull whiskers chances are, she will! My vet recommends teaching young children to extend a hand so the pet knows the child doesn’t pose a threat. Teach your baby to be gentle with pets by demonstrating from an early age how to softly rub your pet’s back.

Go to The Vet

As a general safety precaution, make sure your pet is up to date on all his immunizations.

Children and pets can be the best of friends when given proper guidance and some patience. I can’t imagine our family without them. And, I like to think my furry children have taught my human children a thing or two about responsibility, loyalty and kindness.