March 5, 2021

Teaching Your Child to Love and Respect Pets



by Traci Elizabeth


Children are curious and excited by exploring the world around them. Teaching them how to have pets, is a wonderful experience, and a natural gift of life.

I grew up in a suburban environment that was still wild… with snakes slithering across streets in the spring, butterflies and birds in the backyard, even pheasants running across front lawns. Today there is less green space and more concrete jungle, so we need to introduce our kids to the fascinating furry world of animals.

Start by taking your little ones to a local park or forest preserve in the Spring. Be like a Mama Duck and let your kids follow you, as you take them on an animal walk. Explain its the time when babies are born and it will be fun to look for them. Observe the animal families. Stop and see what squirrels do to make their home in the trees. Let them know the animal babies are learning too!

When children have good understanding and interaction with animals, take it a step closer.

Visiting an animal shelter is a great place to learn hands-on about compassion and caring. Children meet cats and dogs that need homes. Vet techs can answer questions and provide information on pet care. It is important to tell the story of how animals ended up there…due to people who did not take care of them, pets lost, abandoned, homeless. It is a sad reality, but at the same time teaches responsibility and shows consequences.

In that moment, children learn life is precious, fragile, – yet delicately strong like a butterfly. A child wants to see they have the magic power to make a pets life better. It’s like giving a little girl a sparkling fairy wand amongst the animal kingdom to live with her furry best friend happily ever after. Somewhere, a little boy is envisioning a puppy to play ball with in the backyard.

Next, take time in the play area available to get to know a potential pet. Children want to protect and love things, and choosing a pet provides that bond plus unconditional love in return.

Explain that because the pet is not with their animal family, we have to be their family. That things have to be done to give a pet a happy life. To promise to provide a warm home, with lots of love, snuggles, and food. To keep our pets safe off the streets, away from dangers, and get checkups at the vet. That hitting, hurting, or abandoning a pet is never acceptable.

Make plans, and let your child pick out a pet carrier. Keep it in the car so you have it ready for the day your find your special friend. Most animals do not enjoy car rides, it is important to be able to transport pets safely.

At home, animals are naturally territorial, and a pet will find a personal spot they make their own. Set up a plush pet bed with blanket to snuggle in. Help the child take puppies or dogs out for walks, or prepare a cats litter box. Explain all pets need fresh water and food bowls and why stainless steel is best, plastics retain bacteria that can make a pet sick. Taking children shopping for weekly pet items is fun, keeps them involved and focused on the pets’ care.

Going to the library and finding books about favorite animals or animal care is another great way to learn. I know children who like to read books in bed to their pets at night.

Lead with love by caring and sharing knowledge. Teaching your children and having pets as family will be sweetly rewarding. Welcome your new pet home, and follow the paw prints of love!

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