Introducing new pets to kids
How to ensure a happy and healthy relationship for pets and children.
The arrival of a new pet to your family is always very exciting. The cuddles, the fun and the adventures are plentiful. However, it’s really important to take precautions when first introducing your new pet into the family, especially with children.
The benefits of having family pets are endless. Not only does it help children develop responsibility and compassion, studies even suggest that kids who live with pets have reduced risk of allergies and fewer days off sick from school!
However, taking on a pet is a big decision so it’s important to make time to fully consider all the different factors involved.
PDSA vet Olivia Andrews-Nathan says: “Bringing a new pet home to children is an exciting experience, but it can be a bit overwhelming for the pet. But there are some steps you can take to ensure new pets and children are more likely to live in harmony.”
Here are Olivia’s top tips:
- Before the new arrival, teach your kids how to interact with animals, for instance not pulling on tails or ears, not bothering them when they are sleeping or eating, and letting pets sniff the back of their hand before they stroke them.
- Place your new pet’s bed somewhere quiet and out-of-the-way – somewhere the children don’t have access to. Take your pet here when you first bring them home and allow them a few hours to settle – perhaps do this when kids are at school and it’s quieter.
- At the first introduction, have the children sit calmly in another room then bring the pet into meet them. Encourage the kids to stay where they are and allow the pet to come to them as it explores. Explain that shrieks and squeals may scare the pet!
- Supervise all interactions very closely for the first few months, but even when settled, remember you should never leave a child alone with a pet.
- Toddlers may be too young to understand how to interact with pets at first, but they will learn from watching you. Reading stories about animals will also help them to understand that pets think and have feelings.
- Get kids involved – having them weigh out the pet’s food, or helping with grooming under your guidance, will help them to learn about how to care for animals responsibly.
With care and patience, your family will have a best friend for life and enjoy all the wonderful benefits that pet ownership can bring.
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk