Pets can help children socialize and form memories that last a lifetime. However, it’s important to consider pets a part of the family and to be sure that everyone is comfortable when dynamics change. This could include introducing a new pet to children and other pets, bringing home a new baby, or becoming first-time pet parents when you already have children.
Let’s take a look at some ways to plan for these scenarios and make sure that you find the right four-legged pal for your whole family.
No-Stress Guide for Having Pets Around Babies and Kids Safely:
Choosing an Appropriate Pet
Sometimes, families want an exotic pet, or one that stands out. It’s a personal choice, and as long as the pet brings happiness to the home, no one has the right to question your judgment. Just be sure that any animal introduced is suitable for your home, lifestyle and family. Exotic pets, in particular, can be high maintenance and even dangerous.
Caring for a Pet
Involving your kids in pet care is a great idea. Even toddlers can help fill a water dish, if you don’t mind the occasional spill. Here are some guidelines that might help you determine what tasks are appropriate to assign.
- Closely monitor any time children under five spend with pets, to prevent any aggressive behavior or injury.
- Don’t rely on children under 10 to care for large animals alone.
- Remind your child to be gentle with your pet and help them understand that animals have different needs and abilities than people.
- When children don’t care for the pet appropriately, the parents have to pitch in to serve as role models.
Are Pets and Kids a Good Combination?
Having pets can contribute to a child’s sense of well-being and self-esteem. Pets often love unconditionally and provide children with companionship. Developing a positive relationship with a dog or cat helps kids learn compassion and empathy, Since animals can’t talk, it’s an excellent way for them to learn to read body language and react appropriately.
[Also Read: Best GPS collars to track your dog]
Having a pet awakens curiosity about the circle of life, especially if a puppy or kitten becomes part of the family or another pet becomes pregnant. Pets become the trusted keepers of secrets and heartbreaks. When a pet passes, though an incredibly sad event, your child learns about death and is better able to cope with loss. Here are other valuable lessons children of all ages can learn through having pets:
- A deeper connection to the natural world.
- Respect for all living things.
- The importance of physical activity
- Giving and receiving comfort contact (hugs, petting)
- Love, and loyalty
If your pet is overly aggressive with your children, you may need to find a new home for it. If your child is too aggressive with pets, it may be a good idea to rehome your pet until it can be safely re-introduced.
As you probably know, animals experience much of the world through their sense of smell. Unfamiliar smells can antagonize your pet. Before you bring home a new baby, introduce her scent to your cat or dog, so they recognize it. Another thing to keep in mind is that your pet will be attuned to your reactions. New parents can be sleep-deprived, frazzled and anxious. Try to spend time comforting your pet while your new baby is calm, so he doesn’t associate negative feelings with the baby.
Building a Relationship between Your Pet and Baby
You may find that your pet acts differently once you have the baby. Animals react on instinct, and you’re dog or cat could feel threatened by the new arrival. Don’t leave your pet alone with your baby while everyone is getting used to each other. Eventually, you may be able to trust your pet alone with your child, but remember that animals can be unpredictable, and accidents can happen. If you cat lies down to be close to the baby, it can trigger allergies and even block the infant’s mouth or nose.
Once your baby is mobile, establish boundaries. Try to teach him to not to play with your pet’s food dish, litter box or toys. Child safety gates keep baby away from the litter box without blocking your cat’s access.
Introducing a New Pet
If you already have a dog and are introducing a new pet, break it to him gently. Exercise and feed your pet to make sure he’s nice and relaxed. However, cats should be put it a safe place to avoid conflict. Let the new pet get familiar with her new surroundings for at least 30 minutes before the meet and greet. To prevent unnecessary excitement, keep children out of the way while the animals are meeting. Here are some additional tips:
- Put your dog on a short leash for close control during the initial meeting with another dog.
- Let your cat wander around and approach the newcomer willingly. Be ready with treats if everyone behaves.
- Your cat’s natural reaction will be to hiss at the newcomer. There isn’t much you can do to prevent this.
- Introduce new pets to your existing pets and children separately.