Pets and Kids
What child doesn’t want a puppy or kitten? At one time or another, a child will ask their parent for a cuddly doggie or kitty-cat. Mom and Dad have the task of convincing the child they don’t really want a pet until they are much older. Now, if the child who is asking for a pet is sixteen years or older, that excuse probably isn’t going to work, so if the parents don’t want a pet in the home, they need to get more creative.
Let’s hope Mom and Dad are ready for a pet to join the family, but there have to be some ground rules. If the children in the household are 10-years old or younger, some basic how-to-treat a pet education is required.
1- A pet is a living creature, not a toy- some young children may treat a dog or cat as a toy because they don’t understand that the animal can be hurt or even die if hit or mistreated, even unintentionally. Teach your children how to touch the pet, hold the pet, play with the pet, etc. When I was a young boy of 10-years old, I threw a ball, so my puppy would fetch. It was going great until I threw the ball too hard, and it bounced towards the street. I saw my pup of just 12-weeks old running to get the ball as it rolled into the road, and my heart stopped. I yelled, “Lucky, NO! STOP!” and by the grace of God, he stopped as I watched a car speed by in front of him. Had he not listened, he would have been run over. Teach your kids how to play with their pets safely.
2- Teach your kids about their responsibility for their pets. Many parents say no to getting a pet because they know they will be the ones taking care of the pet, not the kids who desperately want the new family member. Giving your kids pet chores is a great practice. Assign the kid(s) to feed the dog or cat each morning and to take the dog for a walk or scoop the litter box each afternoon. The parent will be walking the dog or caring for the cat the rest of the time, but the kids should have daily responsibilities that teach them consistency and accountability.
3- Some kids love to share with others. Having your child give your family pet to another child is a bad idea, if only for a few minutes. The other child may know absolutely nothing about how to treat a dog or cat, or hamster. When my ex-sister-in-law was a young girl, she took her sister’s hamster out to play on the swing set in the backyard. Not knowing a fall from the top of the swing set for a hamster was like a human falling off a 4-story building; she placed the hamster on the horizontal pole, and the hamster slipped, fell to the ground, and died. Young children have a very little understanding of death, just as hamsters, cats, and dogs have no concept of height. Cats jump to their demise from 14-story balconies all the time. Teach your kids not to share their pets and to protect them.
4- Spending time with your pet is very important. As kids age, they have other interests or greater school demands that take away their time to devote to their pets. I mentioned Lucky earlier, a puppy when I was 10, a 7-year old dog when I was 17, and an old man when I was 30. How much did I change from a 10-year-old boy to a 30-year-old man? Lucky watched me discover girls, learn to drive, develop my musicianship, all of which took away time that I had spent with him. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time with Lucky. Today, I spend much more time with my two dogs than I ever did with Lucky. I guess I’m trying to make up for the time I lost with my very first pet. Talk to your kids about giving their pets much-needed attention and love as they age. As we know, pets do not last as long as humans. Spending an hour a day petting your dog or playing with your cat is not asking too much. Time passes quickly, especially for kids who transcend from kids to teenagers, to young adults, to adults. One day they look around and see an old dog sleeping in the corner, and they ask, “what happened to my puppy?” Maybe the old dog looks back and asks, “where have you been?”
Adopt, don’t shop.