Having pets in the home with children may seem like a recipe for chaos, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to teach responsibility and show the unconditional love pets can bring to our lives. From the basic care that keeps your dog or cat healthy to the enrichment that keeps them happy, there are many ways that kids can help care for their furry family members and learn some special lessons in the process.
Anytime kids and pets are sharing space, it’s important to make sure they’ve been properly socialized with each other. Always supervise interactions between young children and pets as both species can be unpredictable at times. Depending on the task you are teaching, take the time to safely show your child exactly what they need to do and, just as importantly, what they shouldn’t do and why. For example, when brushing the cat or dog, be careful around their eyes because quick or unexpected head movements can result in an eye injury.
Of course, each job should be age appropriate for the child and take into account the size, personality, and any special needs of your pet. For example, playtime with a puppy will be very different than playtime with a senior cat and feeding time for a small Persian may be very different than feeding time for a large Mastiff. If your pet has behavioral issues you are working to address, especially those that might pose a risk to kids (for example, food aggression, leash pulling, or hand biting), then be sure to keep those jobs for yourself until the issues are resolved.
Getting kids involved in the tasks that meet your pet’s daily needs is the perfect opportunity for them to learn responsibility and develop confidence. Here are a few ways that kids can help with caring for the dogs and cats in your family.
You can illustrate the importance of enrichment for pets by talking to your child about how happy it makes them when they get to play with different kinds of toys, spend time with different friends, and experience new things. Dogs and cats need those same experiences to live full, happy lives — and they rely on their humans to make it happen. Here are some ideas to get you started.
While there are undoubtedly times when having kids and pets together in the house can feel like a circus, your child’s relationship with a pet can provide experiences and a level of understanding they cannot obtain any other way. When kids are involved in caring for pets, they learn and truly appreciate the work, responsibility, and joy that come with pet ownership. The loving bond between children and their pets can bring happiness to the whole household.