Teach Your Children Responsible Pet Care
A child’s earliest experiences with pets can shape the relationships they will have with animals for the rest of their lives. As a parent and an animal lover, the last thing you want is a lose-lose situation with a child who doesn’t respect or have compassion for animals, especially those you share your home with. When kids are not taught how to properly care for and about their pets, they may often end up resenting the responsibilities of having to do pet chores or wind up resenting the pets themselves.
One method to teach kids responsible animal care is to explain to them how animals have a lot of the same needs that kids do, but rely on humans to meet those needs.
Fresh and Clean Water
You can explain to your kids that when they are thirsty, they need a drink. Not just to quench their thirst, but also to stay healthy and to avoid getting sick from dehydration. Animals need water too, of course. While you can usually get away with just topping off their bowl or water bottle when the water gets dirty, it needs to be replaced and the container needs to be cleaned. Explain to your kids that if animals drink from dirty bowls and water bottles, they can end up getting germs inside their bodies that make them very sick.
Healthy Food and Snacks
There’s no question that the food and snacks that your children eat play a huge role in how well they feel and how quickly they recover from illnesses. Teach your children that animals need to eat healthy food and snacks that are just right for their bodies too. If animals eat too much or the wrong kind of food, they can get really sick. If they don’t get enough food, they could starve and get very sick as well. Make sure that you and your children know exactly how much and what kind of food to feed your animals. For example, not all dog food is right for all ages, sizes, and breeds of dogs just like not all human food is healthy for all humans so it is very important to do your research before Choosing Dog Foods.
Shelter From Bad Weather
[Photo Supplied By Jon Sullivan, http://www.pdphoto.org/ ]
Freezing cold winters and steaming hot summers make animals just as miserable as it does people. Your kids should understand that all pets, even furry-coated ones, have the same physical need to be in the proper temperature as they do. This lesson is a little easier to understand with cats, dogs and other pets that are warm-blooded just like your kids are. While cats and dogs that are outside pets can tolerate slightly warmer and cooler temperatures, they cannot survive extreme weather for long periods of time. In severe heat, they need cool open shaded areas and ample, cool fresh water. In the freezing cold, they need warm shelter and cozy bedding, and extra attention to make sure their water isn’t frozen. For short-haired animals or animals more accustomed to warmer temps, clothing may add an extra layer of warmth. And yes, Pet Owners Who Care Give Cats Something to Wear, too!
Explaining the temperature needs of lizards, tropical birds and fish may be a little more difficult for a younger child to understand. Tell your child that some animals come from different areas of the world and that their bodies need different temperatures than warm-blooded animals like cats and dogs and people do. Be sure to do your homework and research the temperature needs of all your pets so that you know they will be healthy. Reptiles and amphibians need very specific temperature settings and exposure time to heating lamps, pads and rocks; fish need the proper temperature in order for their bodies to function right, and birds generally need protection from extreme heat and cool drafts.
Health & Dental
When you include young children in taking care of your pet’s health and dental needs, you teach them how important it is to take care of their own health. Use pet care duties as an opportunity to compare the importance of their pet’s health needs with their own. Let your children watch or help with administering some medications, taking care of the pet’s grooming needs and keeping their teeth clean and healthy. For very young children who may have fears about going to their own pediatrician and dentist, allowing them to watch their pets get treated by their veterinarian may help to alleviate some of their fears.
Education and Discipline
Education, discipline and training are just as important for pets as they are for kids. Kids need clear directions and consistent reinforcement to know what is expected of them just as pets do. Teach your kids how important it is to help their pets learn and understand which behaviors are acceptable and which aren’t. Read up on some good training methods and show your kid how to teach, encourage and reinforce their pets to behave correctly.
Entertainment, Companionship, and Lots of TLC
At the end of the day, after all of your pet’s basic needs are met, don’t forget to instill in your children the often forgotten need that animals have to be stimulated and loved. Similar to your children, boredom in animals is often the main contributor to discipline issues, such of which may lead to destructive and dangerous outcomes. Make sure your pets have plenty of toys and always demonstrate to your children compassion, respect, and love for all animals.