To have a pet...or not to have a pet?

A pet in the family can have many advantages for your child. From an educational point of view, pets can provide lessons about life – birth, illness, accidents, death but also love, companionship, cuddles, fun, exercise and how to care for another living creature. An animal can foster a sense of responsibility as your child learns to take care of their pet. Emotionally, a positive relationship with a family pet can contribute to your child’s self esteem and confidence, as well as encouraging the development of trusting relationships with others, Non verbal communication; compassion and empathy can also be fostered as your child learns about love, loyalty and affection. Pets also provide comfort contact and can be safe recipients of secrets and private thoughts (children often talk to their pets, like they do their stuffed toys).
 
Choosing a pet:
All kinds of pets can bring pleasure to children but it is important to choose a pet that is right for your family, your lifestyle and your home environment.  Dogs need room to move and a fenced section; they also require a lot of attention. Cats don’t need fences but a property on a main road is a high risk. Look for a cat that is friendly and likes to be petted. Smaller animals such as guinea pigs and rabbits can be good household pets, but young children will need close supervision. Small animals can easily be damaged if they are squeezed or dropped. They may also bolt of startled or hurt. Fish can be fun for children to watch but make sure you place the tank where children can’t climb up and fall in, or pull the tank over on themselves.
A new Baby:
Pets can become jealous after the arrival of a newborn, which may result in aggression towards the baby. Make sure you give your pet extra attention and allow it to interact with the baby. Introduce them to each other gradually, for short periods of time. Never leave a baby alone with a pet unsupervised.

Safety Tips:
Young children should always be supervised around pets. Teach your child some safety tips to protect them from harm and help them enjoy, respect and understand your family pet.

DO:
•    Walk slowly up to and away from animals
•    Learn your pets angry signals, i.e. ears back, hair standing out, hissing, growling, barking, showing their teeth etc
•    Handle pets or animals gently
•    Wash your hands after handling or petting your animal.
 

Don’t:
•    Grab an animal by the feet, ears or tail.
•    Poke or throw things at an animal
•    Tease or stare at an animal
•    Disturb an animal that is eating, sleeping or chewing on something.
•    Run up to or away from an animal
•    Treat an animal like a toy.