Having an open discussion about pets can make pet ownership a positive and fruitful experience for your child, said the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which is to promote the healthy development of children, adolescents, and families. Pets are part of your kid’s life, and parental involvement and planning are helpful for someone who wants to learn to take care of an animal.
You can teach your child to treat their pet with love and patience— the same way they would treat another human being. Pet ownership may help your child treat other people with kindness, fostering empathy. If an animal is treated carelessly, it will be unhealthy for both the pet and your child.
Parents’ Perception of the Child-Pet Relationship (2017)
Only 82 out of 100 parents completed the survey, with 86.1% of parents owning pets, as found by Natalia Russo and colleagues of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC. 52% only owned a dog, 16% only owned a cat, while 32% had several animals. Regarding animal care, 56.1% of parents said they fed their pets commercial diets and interestingly, 3.7% said they sought the most natural commercial foods. 36.6% said they fed their pets a mixed diet, whereas 7.3% fed homemade food.
Overall, 84.1% of families treated their pets for external parasites. 62.2% of pets were taken to the veterinarian annually, while 25.6% and 8.6% were taken twice a year or three more times a year, respectively. Only 3.6% said they had never taken their pets to the veterinarian. In total, 51.2% of respondents said they asked a veterinarian about their choice of animal.
Overall, 72% of respondents already had a pet before having kids. 71.9% said their relationship with their pet had not changed after the arrival of the baby. However, in 56.5% of cases in which the relationship had changed, it showed improvement. All parents aid the relationship between their kids and pets were positive. For example, 70.7% said the pet was a playmate whereas 29.3% said it was someone to take care of.
97.5% of parents said they were not worried about the possible health risks for the children associated with the presence of animals. Apparently, only 1.2% of parents admitted to worrying about hygiene and sanitary risks. Only 3.7% had only increased the number of visits to the veterinarian after giving birth to their child, while most had not increased it. The authors found that 80.5% of kids shared the same rooms with the pets, while only 30.5% slept with them. 90.2% of parents said they did not need any further information about the relationship between children and pets.
What Are the Benefits of Pet Ownership?
Children raised with pets may develop positive feelings with the animals, boosting their self-esteem and self-confidence. Having a positive relationship with pets can help your child forge more trusting relationships with others, develop empathy and compassion, and improve their non-verbal communication skills.
Pets can also be a haven for children to tell their secrets and private thoughts. You might see your child take to their pets, just as they do with their stuffed toys. Pets help your child to be aware of the circle of life such as reproduction. Accidents, deaths, illness, etc. are good lessons for your little one to learn. Pets can aid in the development of responsible behavior and instill the value of respecting for other living things.
Pets can offer physical and emotional needs such as exercise, comfort contact, love, loyalty, and attention. Most kids are gentle and appropriate when handling animals, but some can be rough and abusive. If your child exhibits abusive behavior towards animals, it may be a sign of underlying emotional issues and should be referred to an adolescent psychiatrist for a thorough evaluation.
How Do I Help My Child Take Care of A Pet?
A family told Jan Faul, MEd, of parenting website Parents that they had a new kitten at home, with their daughter promising to help out with feeding, litter cleaning, and more. However, prior to that, the child promised to help out with household chores but failed to do so. Pet care can be overwhelming for your child, so the best you can do is to schedule chores.
Inform when your child can complete each task. For example, you can tell your child that the cat needs to be fed in the morning before breakfast and after dinner at night. Try using the line, "When you feed the cat then we can start dinner." Provide a chart that details all the steps to complete each chore, which helps your child learn the steps involved in a task.
Don’t forget to praise your child’s efforts. See where they did something correctly and point out if they missed a step. For example, you can say, "Thanks for feeding the kitty. It's nice to see you're taking such good care of her. Be sure to rinse off the spoon and put it in the dishwasher." If your child forgets to feed the dog or cat (or change the litter box), express your disappointment and concern. If they keep forgetting to complete their pet chores, briefly reprimand your child. Tell them you won’t take responsibility for their pet. This way, your child may feel guilty and make the guilt as their driving force to be more responsible.
Otherwise, consider using empathy to motivate your child. Try saying, “Your pet is hungry. It can’t prepare its own meal and is waiting for you to offer it some food.” The rationale is to let your child put themselves in their pet’s shoes, which is important to help cultivate compassion towards people and animals.
If you have a younger child, don’t leave it alone with their pet, advised Caring for Kids, a website that provides for parents from Canada’s pediatricians. Accidents may occur when they tease pets or touch them in a way that makes the animals uncomfortable. Avoid letting the pets sleep with your child or roam alone in your baby’s room. Never let your child’s pet lick their face, cuts, or scratches.
Pet ownership can help instill the value or responsibility and compassion. Parents can create a schedule for pet-related chores and remind their kids if they have forgotten to do a certain task. Children should not be left alone with a pet. As much as possible, supervise your child when they are interacting with their pet.