Teaching Your Child to Care For Their First Pet

Family playing with their dog

Family playing with their dog

Teaching Your Child Pet Care Basics

Is your child eagerly looking forward to the day a dog, cat, guinea pig, or fish joins your family? Caring for a first pet offers many benefits for kids and may encourage them to become more responsible and compassionate. Here are a few ways your child can help care for your new addition.

Feeding, Watering, and Cleaning

Providing food and water is one of the most important aspects of caring for a pet. Children can add food and water to dishes, give pets treats, or handle cleaning duties.

When you shop for pet food, explain that you need to choose a food that has the nutrients your pet needs to stay healthy. Just as junk food isn't the best food for people, foods that contain too many fillers or unnecessary ingredients may be bad for your pet's health.

Even very young children can help clean food and water dishes. Although the dishes may not look dirty, it's important to wash and dry them every day to prevent bacterial growth. If bacteria remain on the dishes, your child's new pet could become ill.

If you have a turtle or fish, your child can help you clean the tank or terrarium and gradually take on more and more of the responsibilities as he or she gets older.

By the time your child is about 9 or 10, they may be able to handle feeding or cleaning with little supervision.

Brushing Your Pet

Brushing removes loose hair and debris from your pet's body and can prevent hairballs in cats and rabbits. Demonstrate how to use gentle strokes in the direction that the hair grows. It may be easier for young children to understand how much pressure to use when brushing if they try out the brush on their arms.

Many pets benefit from weekly brushing. If your pet has long hair or sheds heavily, more frequent brushing sessions may be helpful. Older children can also help sweep or vacuum pet hair from floors, carpets, and furniture.

Depending on what type of pet you have, like a dog, they made need a bath every so often to avoid any odors and to clean them if they get dirty. When bathing your pet, your child can help to lather and rinse the shampoo from your pet.

Walking or Exercising With Your Pet

Unlike you, your kids may never grow tired of playing fetch or frisbee with your dog in the backyard or entertaining your cat with a kitty fishing rod. Exercise not only keeps your pet healthy but also improves socialization.

Teach your kids how to walk your dog or cat on a leash or harness by practicing in a fenced yard. When your child is comfortable and can control your pet safely, let them take control of the leash occasionally while you're out for a walk. Eventually, they will be able to take your pet for a walk without you. Michigan Health notes that children may be able to handle solo walks when they're 12 or older.

Don't leave young children alone with pets during exercise sessions or at any other time. Even normally well-behaved kids may be tempted to tease a pet or pull its hair or tail when you're not around.

Cleaning Up

Cleaning the litterbox or cage and picking up poop from the backyard isn't the most fun pet care task, but it's certainly essential. When your children are about 9 or 10, they may be able to start helping you with these tasks. Show them how to dispose of waste properly, and teach them to wash their hands thoroughly after cleaning the litterbox, cage, or yard.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

Every child is different. Some may enthusiastically participate in pet care while others need a little prodding. Before you give your children pet care tasks, consider their ability to handle other chores responsibly. If your child tends to be forgetful, they might be better suited to exercising and grooming your pet rather than feeding it.

Ultimately, your pet's health and well-being depends on you. If your children forget to feed your pet or take it for a walk, you'll need to step in and do these things yourself.

Has your pet been to the see the veterinarian yet? A visit will help you ensure that your new addition is as healthy as can be. Contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

FamilyEducation: Pet Care for Kids: Age-Appropriate Ways for Kids to Help, 11/14/19

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Pets and Children, 1/19

The Animal Foundation: The Basic Necessities of Proper Pet Care, 1/23/18

https://animalfoundation.com/whats-going-on/blog/basic-necessities-proper-pet-care

Michigan Health: Is Your Child Ready for a Pet? 6 Questions to Ask, 12/16/19

Contact Us

Send us an email today!

Hours

Monday:

7:00 AM-11:00 AM

3:00 PM-7:00 PM

Tuesday:

7:00 AM-11:00 AM

3:00 PM-7:00 PM

Wednesday:

7:00 AM-11:00 AM

3:00 PM-7:00 PM

Thursday:

7:00 AM-11:00 AM

3:00 PM-7:00 PM

Friday:

7:00 AM-11:00 AM

3:00 PM-7:00 PM

Saturday:

8:00 AM-11:00 AM

Sunday:

9:00 AM-11:00 AM

4:00 PM-7:00 PM

Locate Us

Find us on a map

    No testimonials found. Please add
  • The Do’s and Don'ts of Pet Summer Safety

    Do you know how to keep your pet safe this summer? ...

    Read More
  • The Most Common Vaccinations for Your Cat and Dog

    Do you know what vaccines your cat or dog needs? ...

    Read More
  • Preparing for Your Kitten’s Developmental Milestones

    Need to hone in on your kitten knowledge? Check out the milestones your new pet will reach during its first year. ...

    Read More
  • What Is Ataxia in Dogs?

    Could balance or gait issues mean your dog has ataxia? ...

    Read More
  • Fish

    If you’re thinking of getting a pet fish, you should know that your veterinarian has a lot of good advice about pet ownership. Fish can be very rewarding as pets, and you just may be surprised about how much fish actually interact with their owners. Here’s more valuable information about choosing ...

    Read More
  • Caring for Senior Cats

    Thanks to advancements in veterinary care, today’s cats can live well into their teen years. It is not uncommon for cats to live to be 18 or even older. However, in order for cats to live a long full life, they need proactive veterinary care to stay healthy. As cats age, they are at greater risk for ...

    Read More
  • Feline Stomatitis: Treatments

    Cats rarely display their pain, but cats with feline stomatitis are often the exception. If your cat appears to have mouth pain, is reluctant to eat, doesn't want to groom, is drooling, and doesn't want you to open its mouth, it may be suffering from this debilitating, degenerative oral condition, and ...

    Read More
  • Feline Leukemia Virus: What You Need to Know

    Feline leukemia (FeLV) is a virus that weakens your cat's immune system. Unfortunately, when the immune system does not function properly, your cat may be more likely to develop other diseases, such as cancer and blood disorders. How Cats Contract Feline Leukemia Cats get feline leukemia from other cats. ...

    Read More
  • Family Cats and Pregnant Women: Take Measures to Prevent Toxoplasmosis Infection

    Nothing must spoil the joys of becoming a new parent. Not even your pets. But family cats with normal, every day habits can pose a risk to expectant women. Women's immune systems can be disturbed by a parasite carried in fecal matter. If you're the primary caretaker of your family's feline friend it ...

    Read More
  • Create an Environment Your Cat Will Love

    The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms that feline emotional wellbeing, behavior and physical health are a result of how comfortable they are in their environment. Understanding how our cats interact with their environment can help us create a space for owners and cats to mutually thrive ...

    Read More
No form settings found. Please configure it.