By JaneA Kelley, PAWS Staff
Pets can be great for children: Not only do they help kids to learn about empathy and compassion, but they teach responsibility as well. Studies have even shown that pets can help children to be healthier by strengthening the immune system.
April 26 is National Kids and Pets Day, which makes it a great time to share some tips to help kids live together happily with dogs and cats.
PAWS cats Fuji and Gala went to a forever home with a small child.
- Children under the age of five should never be left alone with a dog or cat. At this young age, they are still learning how to interact properly with pets, and they need your attention and guidance to do so.
- Teach your children about cats’ and dogs’ body language. This will help them to understand your dog or cat and avoid accidents or injuries. There are some great pictorial guides available on the internet so kids who are still learning to read can get to know things like the signs of stress or relaxation.
- Teach your children to “be gentle with the dog” or “be gentle with the kitty.” That is, no tail-pulling, no chasing or grabbing.
- Don’t allow your child to grab a dog’s or cat’s toys away or disturb him while he’s asleep.
- Use a baby gate to separate your dog and your young children when your dog is eating. A baby gate can also give your cat a “safe room” if she wants to get away from the kids for a while.
- Make sure your cat has plenty of high places where she can observe children without being in their immediate reach.
PAWS dog Goose went to a forever family with a number of kids.
Our animal behavior lead at PAWS, Rachel Bird, offers this advice on how to get kids involved with caring for their animal companions.
- Let them help with feeding your dog or cat. “Feeding animals helps in the ‘bonding’ process,” Rachel says. “Animals really respond to the person giving them food! I like to mix it up at home, and I will rotate between my children to give them all a chance to feed everyone or hand out treats.”
- Let children play with cats using a laser pointer or wand toys. This allows the child to be a safe distance from the cat in order to avoid accidental scratches or bites, and both are having fun.
- Children benefit from getting involved in obedience classes for dogs. “Usually, kids love to learn how to teach a dog new tricks,” Rachel says, “so it’s just a matter of teaching him how to teach them.”
- Older children can take your dog for walks or clean litter boxes. These chores teach children about some of the responsibilities involved in having an animal companion, and will make them better pet guardians when they become adults.
How have you helped your children learn how to care for your dog or cat? Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments.
Find out more about companion animal behavior and welfare in our online resource library.
Thinking of introducing a new companion to your household? See who’s waiting to meet you at PAWS!
Fostering a dog or cat can be a great way to see if you’re ready to introduce a new furry friend to your home. Find out more about our foster care program.