As a child, I constantly had a face full of scratch marks because I could not leave out family cat alone. I dressed him up, brushed him, forced him to sleep with me and generally enjoyed torturing him ( not really, but probably in his mind). He lived for 18 years and I can honestly say that I loved him much more than he loved me.
Having a pet can be a great thing. Pets are shown to reduce stress and increase empathy in children. However, it is important to show children how to be a good pet owner. Here are some tips for helping your child be kind and caring to pets.
- Cats and dogs need food and fresh water every day. Let your child be in charge of these basic needs. Make a visual reminder chart to help your child remember and to show them how much food to put in the bowl. Even the youngest children can be independent with a task like this with help from mom and dad.
- Have a lesson about where your pet likes to be touched. Draw a picture of your cat and decide where he likes to be petted. The neck is ok, the belly, not so much. Definitely not on his legs! This will depend on your individual pet, of course.
- Things that might hurt you can also hurt your pet! Body slamming and jumping on top of pets is not OK and it might hurt them.
- People food is not for pets! Discourage your child from feeding pets from the table. Table food is often not healthy for pets and your pet might see your child a source for table food. Cleaning up the floor after a baby doesn’t count, of course.
- Pets need to be kept safe. Talk about ways to keep your pet safe by never leaving it in a hot car or outside when its cold. Taking care of a pet is a wonderful way to learn about empathy and responsibility.