Raising young children with pets
Top tips on raising pets and people under the same roof
Pets can bring amazing benefits to children, helping youngsters to improve their social skills and develop their kindness, understanding and respect for living things.
However, juggling children and pets under one roof can sometimes be challenging, so here are a few tips to make life just that little bit easier:
If you are thinking of getting a pet for your young child, think about choosing an animal that does not have to live in the house all the time, such as a guinea pig or rabbit. These pets can have cages outside in a sheltered place. This means your child can visit them and handle them for short periods of time while under supervision.
As children get older and begin to understand that animals need to be respected, this can be a good time for adding a cat or dog to your family.
Introducing a new pet
Gently introduce your pet to a new baby. Dogs can sometimes feel jealous of a new baby when they first come home so always try to give your dog some special attention so they know you still care about them.
Cats are less likely to get jealous of your new baby but they can be attracted to the warmth of a baby's cot. Always use a cat net on the pram or pushchair when it is downstairs or in the garden. Even if you don’t own a cat, neighbouring cats can be curious too, so be aware.
Teach your children the importance of giving a dog space. No matter how trustworthy and good-natured your pet may be, if a child crowds your pet, pulls his tail or pokes him, he could lose patience. Make sure you teach your children how to be kind and polite to your pets.
Many pets are very tolerant of small children but you still need to take a few simple precautions to ensure your child is safe, especially once he or she is crawling and walking.
Always keep your pets out of the room your baby sleeps in and never let your pet share your baby's bed.
Invest in a safety gate so that you can give your pets space away from children from time to time. Stair gates can also help keep your baby away from animal food and litter trays.
If you have a garden, consider fencing it so there is a safe baby area and a separate pet area. If your pet is allowed to use the whole garden, remember to regularly check it over, especially before letting your child outside.
Dogs always need supervision when babies and children are around, and it's important to keep an eye on our feline friends too. Cats will often escape if a child is teasing or hurting them, but some will scratch and bite.
As it's pretty common for young children to receive minor scratches or bites by their pet at some point it's always a good idea to keep an eye on how your children and pet play together to avoid unnecessary injury.
Basic health and safety rules aside, there is absolutely no doubt that pets can be wonderful companions as your child grows and learns.
National Pet Month has responsible pet ownership, and the importance of the relationship between people and pets, at its heart. Check out National Pet Month events in your area April 1 – May 2 where you can learn more about responsible pet ownership and raise funds for pet charities.