Toddlers and Pets

Little children and cuddly, fury animals make for wonderful photo ops and Pinterest uploads, but the truth is that life with children and animals can be a messy and difficult juggling act. Yet, bringing a child and a pet together can be a beautiful and rewarding experience for everyone if it’s done right. If you are considering making a pet part of your family, consider these helpful points to ensure everything goes smoothly.

1. Choosing your pet

Dogs and cats reign supreme as domesticated pets, but if you prefer a household animal that is low maintenance and less likely to to claw or bite your little one, you might want to consider a smaller exotic animal. The most popular types of exotic pets for children include small creatures like hamsters and hissing cockroaches. These can be easy to take care, and (since they are most likely to live within a cage) they are out of reach of tiny human hands that like to pull tails and squish noses.

Of course, not every home is made for a bunny rabbit of hissing cockroach. So first, consider the age of your child versus the needs of the pet and do your research on each type of pet before you commit.

2. Creating a separate space for pet and tot

For the most part, your toddler and your pet should share different living areas. The best thing to do, if your pet is a house pet, is to use child safety gates to put a physical barrier between your child and your

dog, cat, or goldfish. That doesn’t mean that you can never bring the two together — in fact you must create bonding time (see below) if you ever want your household to be one happy family — but because little ones need such constant supervision around animals, it’s best to eliminate any chance that they might interact when you are not around.

3. Monitored play time

You do want your toddler and your pet to learn to get along. But keep in mind that this is going to be a learning experience. Children don;t instinctively know how to be gentle with an animal or avoid provoking an attack. Likewise, it’s very possible that an animal might misread playful or even “normal” toddler actions (like clapping or shouting loudly) and respond with aggression.

4. Enjoying the benefits

Making it possible for a child to grow up with the companionship of a pet offers many wonderful rewards. Caring for an animal introduces a child to the rhythm and expressions of nature — how a cat hunts, how bunnies are born, how a mommy cares for her chick. It also gives you an opportunity to confront the less cheery side of nature, such as the death of a pet, which can help you a small child deal with tragedy in her own world.

Feeding and grooming a pet teaches little ones responsibilities as well. In addition, research has show that your child might be healthier if he’s raised with a pet since they may help reduce the risk of certain allergies.

5. Focusing on the first meeting

First impressions are especially important when it comes to children and animals. One or both parties can determine how they feel about the other within moments, and can lead to a child that displays fear of dogs or a cat that is forever hostile to your child. Using treats and other tried-and-true techniques are the perfect way to break the ice ans start off with everyone as friends.