Families are adopting new four-legged family members in record numbers and enjoying the rewards that come with pet ownership. In turn, many families are introducing pets and children together for the first time ever. Parents have to be vigilant when it comes to making sure that kids and pets interact safely as they get to know each other. Following are some tips to help facilitate a stress-free introduction period and maintain harmony in the home.
Teach Your Kids How to Handle Pets Before Adopting
Take opportunities to have your children pet and handle friendly cats and dogs prior to adoption. Show your children how to pet and touch an animal properly and make sure they understand that they shouldn't retaliate if they get scratched or bitten. Younger cats and dogs are rambunctious and more likely to bite or scratch when excited. Explain animal behavior and body language to kids so they can recognize when an animal is tired of the play or attention they're receiving and avoid getting hurt.
Giving the Pet Space
Animals need time and space to explore a new residence on their own terms. Cats are likely to hide under furniture for a while until they get a chance to adjust which can disappoint the kids. If a cat decides to hide for a while, explain to the kids that it's normal and the cat will eventually interact with them once they settle. Dogs are more extroverted and are happy to explore their new surroundings while accompanied by people, but not always. This is an opportunity to explain to your kids that animals have distinct personalities, and everyone has to learn how to live together.
Establish Boundaries for Kids and Pets
Young pets need training and teaching to respect there are things they can't do, and places they can't go into. However, disciplining the pets may upset the kids because they don't like the idea of their new family member getting into trouble. Focus on explaining why there are consequences to bad behavior for pets and correlate it to lessons they've learned. Make sure that the kids know that the disciplining should be no stronger than a loud "no" or leave the work to the parents.
Kids need to learn when to leave a pet alone and not disturb their rest, or to recognize when a pet has had enough interaction for a while. Have a discussion with the kids about letting pets sleep, don't disturb them when they're eating, and to back off if a pet is acting grumpy. The goal is to get your kids to understand that pets need their personal time the same as people do.
Teach Pet Care Responsibilities
Younger kids may not be able to take a dog out for a walk without getting dragged and changing out a litter box may be too heavy for them. But they can help in small ways by adding a pair of hands to the leash, pouring out food, and help bring a pet to the veterinarian for an annual checkup. Getting kids involved in caring for pets early on in life will turn them into lifelong pet lovers that will eventually teach the next generation how to handle and enjoy the company of animals.