Kids and pets can be a great mix, building lifelong friendships and lasting memories together. But it’s important to teach your children how to respect animals early and remind them often of the proper way to treat animals – yours and others. If an animal feels unsure or threatened, even the gentlest pet can lash out and potentially be dangerous. Laying the foundations for pet safety at an early age can create an enduring benefit for your children and your pets.
Kids Safety with Dogs
According to Victorian Health, “Children five years old or younger are most at risk and are most frequently bitten by their own or a friend’s dog, usually in or around the home. Incidents are usually triggered by a child’s interaction with the dog during play, eating or when the dog is sleeping.”
Children under 5 (and especially toddlers) should never be left alone with a dog or any animal. Kids at this age are too unpredictable to be unsupervised with pets – and vice versa. Toddlers and young children may like to jump on, pull on, and even bite dogs that may not be used to such rough play and attention.
Learning a few simple safety precautions might save a child or dog from injury:
- Keep your dog safety talk with the child simple and easy to listen to.
- Stay away from dogs you don’t know; especially stray dogs running around.
- Always approach a dog on a leash slowly, and then ask for permission from the dog’s owner before you touch or pet it.
- Never yell, run, hit or make sudden movements around a strange dog.
- Teach kids to respect dogs and not climb on it, pull their ears or tails.
- Always wash hands after touching dogs and any animals.
Kid Safety with Cats
Cats and children can be wonderful companions. With a well-prepared environment and a talk with your child about cat safety, they’ll be best friends in no time. Modeling good behavior with your cat will help teach the child how they should behave around them. Show them how to play gently, when to pet them and most importantly, when to leave them alone.
Here are some tips for keeping kids safe around your cats:
- Teach your child to pay attention to the cat’s body language. Explain the different types of body language they might see the cat portray, and what those might mean.
- As with any pet, supervise your child around a cat or kitten; especially toddlers. A well-intentioned child can easily scare a cat by running, marking sudden movements, or attempting to pick him or her up.
- Teach your child the proper way to pet the cat, including which direction to pet their fur and where on their body to pet.
- Active, loud play should be avoided around cats, and ideally cat owners might have a separate area the cat can go where it won’t be bothered.
- Explain to your child that if the cat is hiding, that means kitty wants to be left alone, and could scratch or bite if the child tries to take the cat out of the hiding spot.
- You can also let your child know that sometimes cats need alone time and that it’s perfectly OK.
- Cats can play rough with their toys. Tell a child to not bother a cat when they are playing with their own toys. Watching a cat or kitten at play can be entertainment enough!
It’s important to remember that when we get a pet for our children, that pet belongs to us as well. Though children are often willing and able to help take care of a family pet, it’s the parent’s ultimate responsibility to fully care for the family pet. . Make sure your kids get an early education in how to care for and respect all animals and you can help ensure a lifetime of safety and fun for everyone.