Many families with dogs and/or cats come to consider their pets as belonging to the family too! Some couples might even have a set of “furry kids” before they ever have human children of their own. But what happens when your household shares space with both children and pets? There are some definite considerations to take in mind to keep both your four- and two-legged kids happy and healthy.
Foremost, especially if you have younger kids in the home, it’s important to never leave them alone with your pets. Young children simply may not understand how their actions impact a dog or cat–and pets will often react more instinctively to injury or threats, even if accidental or unintentional. This could be a tail or fur being painfully yanked on, an animal’s space feeling invaded, or the kids making loud noises that startle you dog or cat.
As the kids grow older, take care to educate them on the safe and loving ways to interact with the family pets. Teach them to be gentle when petting them, and not to corner or tackle them, even in play. The sooner they learn how to respect the pet’s boundaries–as well as keep their own intact–the better.
It’s also important to train your pets, too! If the animal is bigger is a little aggressively playful or accidentally knocks your toddler over, put up some barriers in the house to keep them separate for a time. Slowly introduce your dog or cat to your kids in a controlled manner, letting them get used to someone who may be just as much a newcomer to the family as the puppy or kitten once was. Animals can be territorial, but over time, most adapt just fine to additions to the household.
Lastly, don’t forget about things like your pet food or toys. Children certainly shouldn’t be getting their hands or mouths on these until they’re old enough to safely play with them…or when they’re starting to take responsibility for things like feeding or walking the pets. Until then, practice good sanitation techniques, since puppy chow and baby food are definitely for different dietary needs!
All in all, having pets and kids can be a wonderful experience for both, as they learn to socialize, play together, and grow up together.
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