As children we love to get what we want and will throw a fit when we don’t. Some people give into these urges just to stop the whining and crying. This isn’t the point though; when a child looks at a cat and says I want it, when is it the right time to get said animal and start teaching them the responsibility of caring for another living being?
Children can love animals to death and still lose interest in picking up after them, feeding them, walking them, and watering them. As much as they love the animal, they’d rather play with it than care for it. Every parent has to be ready to step up and step into that job as animal caretaker if/when that child loses interest. It isn’t fair to child or animal if the child loses interest in taking care of the animal and the animal has to suffer because the parent wants to teach the child a lesson on caring for an animal. Be ready to be the one to handle the animal as a just in case should the child lose interest.
Teaching Your Child To Be Gentle:
Most children are rambunctious, hyper and love to play. This doesn’t mean that when you get an animal that the animal will want to play like that. Even if the animal does play like that, children often don’t know the strength they possess when they pounce, tackle, or hug a person or animal and can often hurt them without even knowing it. Knowing this, a parent must first teach a child to be gentle with an animal, to not smack, pat, or hit the animal in any way, even in play. An animal can often misjudge such actions, even in children, and this can lead to a scared pet or a scared child, neither of these are good in any case. A child has to learn to be gentle, even if the animal itself is a hyper, happy, fun loving dog. Neither really knows their own strength but it’s in the child’s hand that a dog, cat, or any pet can know love, or know fear, even if by accident.
How to hold, pet, and even snuggle with an animal:
Petting an Animal:
Now that the child knows how to be gentle with an animal, it’s time for them to learn how to pet or hold the animal. Like in being gentle, a child might accidentally squeeze or startle an animal if they hold it too tight or pet it in the wrong place or too fast in some cases. One thing that is best learned is to never bring your hand up too fast when going to pet an animal. Most animals can be easily startled and something coming that close in their eyesight can not only startle them, but provoke them to defend themselves if they get scared or perseive a threat. The best way to pet an animal is slowly and calmly, usually along the back and spine in a soft manner following their fur; a lot of animals find it uncomfortable if you pet the wrong way on their fur i.e. fluffing their fur up by pushing your hand backwards through their fur.
Holding an Animal:
As for holding an animal, you always want to support their feet as if you don’t this can give them the feeling of falling and may freak the animal out. Dogs, especially big ones, this obviously isn’t a problem as what child would be even able to pick up a big dog? Cats and other small animals though, are a focus for how to hold an animal. Make sure you don’t accidentally squish the poor animal’s tail the wrong way when cuddling your animal as this can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful for them. With some cats you can get away with holding them like a baby and some do enjoy this, but this isn’t for all cats. Wrap your arms around the cat’s torso and, while support its back paws with your hand you can safely lift and hold the animal, it’s front paws will most likely be supported against you. For even smaller animals, i.e. cage animals or small rodents, you want to take a hand and gently but firmly wrap it around the animals torso when picking it up and also, like other animals, support it’s feet when doing so. If you are picking up a rodent never pick it up by it’s tail. Picking a rodent up by it’s tail can cause what’s called degloving, or think of taking a glove off, which leaves only your hand beneath it. Now think of this in the way of a rodents tail; this takes the skin off instead of a ‘glove’ and can be quite painful.
Supervising Child And Animal Playtime:
While most times you should have no problems leaving your animals alone to play with your child, you always have to be careful, for both child and animal. Remembering that an animal is still an animal it is best to keep an eye on the child and animal as they play just in case. If it’s a smaller animal, i.e. kitten, puppy, or a ‘pocket pet’ (rodents i.e. guinea pigs, rats, gerbils, hamsters) the best advice is to let the child sit with the animal and let the animal play on them or with them on the ground unless you trust the child to handle the animal in a careful and responsible manner.
When is the right age?
A child is a big responsibility. They need proper food, a bed, water, exercise; but when is the right age for the parent to start teaching this child the responsibility of caring for another. The answer in itself is really an opinion for each and every individual. There are some that think 5 is a good age, there are some that think never is the right age and that children should never be allowed to be the sole caretaker of an animal. There are a lot of things to consider if you are thinking of getting a child an animal such as maturity and gentleness. Will the child be mature enough not to hurt the animal if they throw a tantrum and will the child be able to be gentle with this creature. The right age should be chosen solely by the parents and only when they think they and their children are ready for an animal, should they get one.
Children and animals are wonderful things, and learning to coexist, to live, to love, and to grow with one another is a beautiful thing as well. When a person and an animal can live together with no problems there is nothing like it. You get an animal who loves unconditionally, and the animal gets someone who loves and cares for them as well. Remember though, an animal is still an animal, and a child is still a child, make sure you trust your child to care for an animal when getting them one, and remember that if they don’t, it’s up to you to care for that animal.
There is nothing like the bond between a child and their pet, but it is always wise to make sure that everyone (parents and children included) knows what they are doing when dealing with a pet.