It was chubby and pink, had an unerring instinct for danger and a taste for fluff-covered bits and pieces missed by the mop or hoover.
Yes, I am talking about a baby. And when you throw pets into the mix (not literally), the challenges really begin to mount up. But what can you do? No one wants to get rid of a beloved family pet when there’s a new arrival, so it’s a matter of constant vigilance to make sure baby’s safe and your pets aren’t allowed a situation for accidents to happen.
In our own experience, and probably in the experience of most parents, it’s all about common sense. No animals in the bedroom in the early years, and no unattended play until they’re big enough to be safe and understand the dangers. It’s not that our pets are very likely to lash out. We’ve all seen the headlines, but mercifully it’s still extremely rare for a pet to deliberately hurt a baby.
What concerned us most was the baby hurting the pet, and in turn the cat scratching in self-defense. Fortunately that didn’t happen to us, but there were plenty of little accidents even when supervised. Our cat accidentally scratched our tot on quite a few occasions, and at friend’s houses, we saw young children knocked over like skittles by their dog!
All completely innocent accidents and very minor too, but still plenty of boo-hooing to listen to afterwards! Shock rather than pain, in most cases.
It seems that pretty much everyone takes the same attitude where babies and pets are concerned – the benefits are huge and the risks are small and easily catered for. And research has shown that children raised in families with pets are more sociable, find it easier to empathise with their peers and are less stressed than those without.
But that comes later. You still have to contend with the little tiny years, when you catch your precious one heading for freedom through the cat flap, or about to investigate the litter tray, or perhaps about to sample the culinary delights of the dog food bowl! You need eyes in the back of your head half the time.
All of this is why we have pets in the family. Special companions, play, memories, and actually, something even more special than that.
Two years ago we got Dougie, a German short haired pointer. He was just 8 weeks old and the first dog we ever had. It didn’t surprise us that all three children adored him, loved him and cared for him. What really amazed us was how Dougie became a focus for love and closeness in the family. Instead of playing separately in their rooms, the children began collecting where Dougie was, playing together and having fun.
Now that’s something we never expected. A pet being more appealing than an iPad! But that’s how it happened and it really sums up why it’s worth the hassle of mixing babies and pets. They give us so much, they bring us together, and the bring out the best in us all.