Here are some guidelines for helping your child interact properly with pets!
2-3 minute read
Having a pet enables kids to learn strong social skills whilst pets can benefit from an enthusiastic and energetic playmate to keep them active.
To ensure a safe and positive relationship, it is important to teach your child how to treat the household pets.
Keep your eyes on them
Supervision between pets and kids is a priority to keep them both safe. A small child can easily frighten animals and cause a defensive reaction by stepping on their tails, pulling their ears or grabbing them too tightly - "cute aggression" is where we as humans want to squeeze things we find cute, and children can have a hard time with this impulse, so it is important to pay attention for this as squeezing can cause internal organ damage to animals, especially smaller ones, and potentially ruin a bond between the child and the animal.
Do not leave your young child alone with a new or unfamiliar dog or cat, and be ready to intervene to avoid or prevent situations that may result in dog or cat bites and scratches.
Lay down ground rules for pets
Cats often need their own space to eat and use the litter box in peace, out of the reach of children. Teach your child not to disturb cats when they are in their safe place, or whilst sleeping, eating or using the litter box.
Dogs can wake up with a fright if woken unexpectedly, so it is important to teach children to not suddenly wake the dog. Dogs can become aggressive while eating, so it is important to leave them to their food time. Teach your child not to disturb dogs whilst they are sleeping, or eating.
Teach positive play time with the pets
Teach your child not to use hands or fingers to wrestle with pets that are being too aggressive with their teeth and claws during playtime.
Teach your child to not grab toys from the mouths of dogs, as this can lead to unintentional injuries.
Teach how to properly care for pets
Children will learn to love and care for pets by observing their parents, so be a good role model. If you treat your pets with kindness, love and respect, it's more likely your child will grow up to do the same with animals in general.
Demonstrate for your child how to be careful and respectful towards pets through your words, tone, and approach towards the pets.
Be sure to teach your child that most cats do not love being touched on the belly, paws, rump, or tail - although this is not always the case! Some cats love a good belly rub, but not all of them.
The sooner you teach your child about how to love and care for cats and dogs compassionately, the more likely they will develop a beautiful lifelong bond with the pets.
Last but not least, children should be involved with naming the pets, shopping for toys for playtime, and going on vet visits to learn about animal health care, so get them to help with the feeding, grooming and playing routines.