A good friend of mine is about to become a Mom. She and her husband also have three dogs and a cat. Everyone acquainted with her knows she is passionate about animals and totally devoted to her pets. You would assume that anyone with half a brain wouldn't even thing about telling her to get rid of her pets, but truth be told she's been constantly harassed by family and friends about "getting rid of those animals" ever since she announced the pregnancy. And as an overprotective friend, I'm sick of it and not afraid to say so.
Becoming a parent does not mean you have to get rid of your pets.
We've all heard the warnings... the cat will give you toxoplasmosis and smother the baby! The dog will attack the baby! The dog will make the house unsanitary and the baby will get sick! You won't have time for the dogs once the baby arrives! You won't care about your pets once you have a "real" baby! If your baby drops a pacifier, there will be dog hair stuck to it - yucky!
There are easy solutions for every one of these warnings. Worried about toxo? Have your husband clean the litterbox. Worried about the pets hurting the baby? Supervise and separate. Worried about your baby getting sick because of whatever dirt your dog adds to the house? Clean the house and wash the dog... which is what you should be doing anyway, baby or not! Worried about not having time for your pets? Being ignored for awhile at home is better than being ignored most of the time in a cold, lonely cage at the shelter.
And if you won't care about your pets once you have a human baby, do everyone a favor and don't get a pet at all.
It has been my observation that one of the major reasons why "trade ins" are so common is because many people don't understand animal behavior anymore. People expect pets to miraculously know how to behave around children, and it's the animal's fault when they don't fit their owners' behavioral expectations. Dogs are expected to "know better" than to lick the baby, or to jump on the stroller, or to act territorial when a child's friend shows up for a sleepover. Cats are expected to "know better" than to knock over the bottle or to get in the crib with the baby. These are animals, not people - if you want them to "know better," you have to be responsible and teach them.
On a side note, it's expected that pets "know" to leave their owners alone and behave themselves when the baby comes home. Look at the situation from their perspective - they've been the center of attention for a long time and suddenly there is a new, funny-smelling, odd-sounding new pet in the house that seems to be getting all the attention that used to be reserved for them. Wouldn't you be confused too?
There are parents (and soon-to-be parents) out there that understand that having both kids and pets can be a struggle, but are unwilling to take the easy way out and dump their animals once the baby arrives. These are people that are worthy of much praise and admiration. If you know any of these wonderful souls, stop trying to convince them to get rid of the family members that were there first! Better yet, don't even start the "get rid of the pets" tirade. Support them in their decision to be responsible for all the lives under their roof, and their decision to keep the promise they made to their pets when they brought them into their lives.
"You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."
- The Little Prince
(photo courtesy of Dana Montero)
PS - if you ever decide to sabotage someone's relationship with their pet by abusing that animal, then expecting the owner to get rid of the pet because of the emotional trauma and subsequent behavior problems your actions caused... there is a special place in Hell reserved for you. Barring that, I'd be happy to introduce you to my Dobermans in a dark alley. They love the taste of scumbags by moonlight.