Growing up with pets can be meaningful, educational, and so much fun, especially if a child is an active participant in the pet’s daily care. Our pets depend on us for every aspect of their health and safety, and involving kids with pet care is an important step toward becoming adults who love and respect animals.
Involving Kids with Pet Care
Whether you have just adopted a new pet, or are beginning the process of teaching your kids to care for an existing pet, it’s important to keep the age and abilities of each individual child in mind. Once you have determined an age-appropriate pet care schedule for your child, be sure to stick with it. This will help your child to learn that pet care is a long-term commitment, with many rewards.
Examples of duties that children can perform (at varying ages) include:
- Filling water bowls with fresh water
- Feeding/measuring food portions
- Picking out treats
- Shopping for pet food
- Cleaning up after a pet (yard or litter box)
- Training and teaching new tricks
- Daily walks (with an adult as dictated by age)
- Cage cleaning/refilling cages with liners and bedding
- Grooming (assisting with brushing, bathing, and tooth brushing)
- Keeping leashes and other gear clean and organized
Involving kids with pet care can also be an opportunity to explain important principles of pet health and wellness. For example, the daily walk can be a time to go over the importance of regular exercise, while mealtime is the perfect opportunity to talk about why we measure portions and avoid feeding people food to our pets.
Most kids have a natural affinity for animals, and may readily accept their pet care duties. Parents know that pet care is ultimately an adult responsibility. The considerable cost and time constraints involved in providing veterinary care, housing, nutritious food, socialization, and the many other daily care duties are not to be taken lightly.
That being said, we can certainly help to integrate our kids into the pet care routine by considering the following:
- Keep your child’s age and personality in mind when choosing a family pet; for example, very young children and very young or small pets generally do not mix well.
- Always supervise pets and kids, as both can be unpredictable! Staying vigilant will help to ensure that both parties remain calm and safe, and that the interactions are enjoyable.
- Make sure that you don’t assign only the “fun” tasks to your kids. In order to grow into responsible pet owners, children need to experience all aspects of pet care, including less-than-desirable tasks like poop scooping and vacuuming pet hair.
A Solid Foundation
Sharing your home with children and pets who enjoy one another’s company is a deeply satisfying experience for everyone. Involving kids with pet care not only deepens the natural bond between your children and pet, it also provides the opportunity to learn about empathy, compassion, and commitment.
Your friends at Union Lake Pet Services welcome your questions about age-appropriate pet care tasks. Give us a call!