We can all agree that pets have a powerful ability to bring love, joy, and happiness into a home. Those of us who had pets as children have fond memories of time spent with them and want our kids to have the same experience. However, even the most docile animal can cause trouble with a child and vice-versa if not supervised or properly managed.
Chances are that your kids will be consumed with excitement about the arrival of a new friend. But before they try to smother them with hugs and kisses, it’s crucial that you take the necessary steps to ensure that both of the smallest members of the house are safe and happy during their interactions. Here’s how to introduce a new pet to your kids.
You should always be around during the first few times that your kids and pet are together. Puppies and kittens are accustomed to playing a little rough, while older cats and dogs may not be as gentle as your kids expect either. Teach your kids how to approach the animal. They should be slow, quiet and gentle.
With dogs and cats, it’s recommended to hold your hand out for them to sniff it. This is their way of ensuring they’re comfortable with someone. (1) Remind your child to be respectful of the animal’s personal space. Go as slowly as possible in the beginning before moving on to any high-activity play.
Treats and Toys
During first-time encounters with dogs, most of them will get excited and hyperactive at the sight of a treat. This might cause them to snatch it roughly from your child’s tiny fingers. And while toys are a good way to play with dogs, they may initially cause territorial issues. (2) This is why it’s better to avoid using them in the beginning.
A pet needs time to familiarise itself with its new environment to feel secure and comfortable. Before this happens, they might feel scared and become skittish or aggressive. Moreover, the excitement from your kids can stress them out. This is why it’s better to give your new pet some time to adjust to their environment alone before bringing someone in.
Ask your children to cooperate by letting the pet be until it willingly comes around, especially with kittens. However, puppies are often different in that they require stimulation. If they appear lonely, you can encourage your child to spend time with them as long as they are gentle.
If your child is old and responsible enough, it’s a good idea to assign them some tasks related to taking care of the pet. This can include feeding, filling their water bowl, cleaning up and changing the pet’s bedding. This way, your child can spend more time with the pet while also learning some important responsibilities.
It helps to put your child and pet into unique situations where they can make happy memories together. After all, this is one of the best parts of growing up with an animal in the house. Perhaps you can take the pet with on picnics or go for a walk if they’re old enough. In any case, it’s important to ensure that they’re protected during their adventures.
If your pet becomes injured, the last thing you want to deal with is a hefty vet bill. For this reason, consider taking out pet insurance. A site like Everypaw that provides pet insurance quotes will help the process, understand the different types of pet insurance and then you can make the choice that’s right for your budget and situation. Everypaw lets you find insurance for dogs and cats with different levels of cover, according to your and your pet’s needs.
You should clearly outline where the pet is allowed to eat, sleep and play before you bring them home. As you may already know, cats love jumping onto high surfaces and climbing curtains, while puppies want to explore every corner of the house where there’s a potential chew toy. This is why it’s important to have rules in place as to where they can be.
At the same time, your kids should be informed about when they can approach the pet and when they should give it some time alone. Animals need quality sleeping time and can become aggressive if a child is constantly waking them up. The same applies to when they’re eating. Younger kids should ask for permission before playing with the pet.
An unfortunate reality for many pets is that they end up back at the breeder or shelter when families are unable to integrate them into the home. A pet is a life-long commitment and should be treated with care at all times. Ensure that your child is aware of this.
Keeping the above points in mind will go a long way in helping your kids stay happy and safe when interacting with a new pet. Remember to supervise them during their first encounters before letting them have fun together.