Has your child been begging to get a puppy or a kitten for Christmas or their birthday? Taking on a new pet is full of responsibility and there are some very important lessons you’ll want to teach your children about caring for their new pets. This will come in handy for any pets in general that your children may come in contact with.
The first thing a child will have to learn, especially if they are rambunctious and getting a new puppy or kitten, is to be gentle, just as you would teach them if they were meeting a new baby brother or sister. They may not be familiar with animals at all, or only with animals that are all grown up and can handle rough-housing.
You will, no doubt, have to do much of the caring for of this new pet, but this is a wonderful learning experience for your children to learn the responsibility of caring for another living thing. The basic supplies you will need for a dog or cat will be a bed or a designated area for them to sleep, collar, leash, and tags, food, food and water bowls, a brush or comb-depending on what your pet’s breed requires, treats ideal for training, toys, and a poop scooper, litter box, or designated area for your pet to take care of its business.
Kids will have a very easy time wanting to play with the pet and keep it active and giving it attention, especially within the beginning of their special bond. You’ll want to make sure that your child also cares for your new pet in practical ways. Making a daily or weekly chore chart is incredibly helpful in keeping your kids accountable for feeding, walking, cleaning up after, and even playing with your pet. If you have multiple children, you can easily alternate who has which chores by day. If you give your child an allowance or reward for each week they complete all of their assigned chores, they’ll be more prone to do it without feeling it’s a chore.
If your child’s pet lives in a cage or tank, be sure to help them and instruct them on how to properly clean the tank and cage. This is something that may require supervision or additional help for a while, until you feel your child is prepared and capable enough to do it on their own.
This will also apply to grooming your pet. Brushing and combing your pet is something that can be done daily or weekly, depending on how often your pet is prone to shedding and what their coat is like. Dogs can be bathed once a month, and cats every few months.
You will want to set ground rules around the house for the pet. This can include things like not going into certain areas of the house or on the sofa/beds, no begging, etc. Once you can determine the rules, you can begin to help start training your pet to obey these rules. Whether this is through an obedience class, or even just being gentle and working together to make sure the pet (and your child) will know the rules, and not allow them to be broken.
You’ll want to really emphasize the importance of keeping things clean around this new member of your family, especially if you got a dog or cat. If there are toys like Lego’s or doll accessories that an animal could easily choke on, they will need to be picked up.
Ultimately, you will want to encourage your child to play and bond with their new pet as much as possible. That is how they will learn to love to care for it, instead of feeling like it is a burden. If you have a hamster, maybe set up an area on the child’s table or desk they use for homework, so that their new friend can be around them. Making sure there are lots of toys for your child to use to be able to engage with your pet will be helpful too. When puppies are teething, they will love to play with chew toys and tug-of-war ropes. Kittens will love chasing mice on strings, and, no doubt your child will giggle and enjoy watching them run around just as much. While having a pet is a giant responsibility and a huge step for anyone to take, loving your animal and caring to create that bond that lasts for years is worth every moment.