How to ensure a happy and healthy relationship for pets and kids
The arrival of a new pet to your family is always very exciting, with cuddles and fun aplenty. However, it’s really important to consider very carefully whether a new pet is right for you and how you’ll integrate your new pet to the family, especially if you have children.
Family pets can help children develop responsibility and compassion, but taking on a pet is a big decision so it’s important to take time to fully consider all the different factors involved. If you’re not sure a pet is for you, take some time out and come back to making a decision when you feel ready. The worst thing you can do is rush into it, especially during the current climate when many vets aren’t able to offer vital preventative treatments or routine appointments.
However, if you’ve done plenty of research and decided a pet is right for you and your family, PDSA has some advice on how you can help introduce a pet to young children.
PDSA vet Anna Ewers Clark says: “Bringing a new pet home to children is an exciting experience, but it can be a bit overwhelming for the pet with so many things changing when they first come home. There are some steps you can take to ensure new pets and children are more likely to live in harmony.”
Here are Anna’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: make sure your kids know this is a place just for your pet, not to be shared with them. Take your pet here when you first bring them home and allow them a few hours to settle – perhaps do this when kids are out and it’s quieter. Make sure they can always access their space to have time to themselves whenever they need to.
- 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 they explore. Explain that shrieks and squeals may scare the pet!
- Supervise all interactions very closely for the first few months, but even after this, remember you should never leave a child alone with a pet.
- It’s important that all pets get their own space and time to relax away from the family if they’d like to.
- Toddlers may be too young to understand how to interact with pets at first, and will need to be reminded not to grab, 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, improving 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/appeal.