Monday, July 12, 2010
By Tamara L. Waters
Becoming a responsible pet owner is something kids can learn early on. Helping your children learn how to care for pets responsibly and lovingly is easy enough to do, and more important than you might realize. Responsible pet care can also teach a number of life lessons to kids that will lead to them becoming responsible adults in many aspects of their lives. Here are a few tips on helping your kids learn these valuable lessons.
Feeding and Watering Chores
Children can take an active role in pet ownership by becoming part of a pet's daily care. Adding the feeding and watering of a pet to a child's daily chore list helps them develop a routine while taking part in the pet's care.
At my house, the kids are not allowed to put off the feeding and watering of the pets until they feel like it, or find time. When they get up in the morning, feeding the cats is the first thing they are expected to do and of course, our kitties remind them of this. The two oldest children rotate this task: one feeds the indoor cats and the other feeds the outdoor cats. The next day, the roles switch.
Exercise and Playtime
Setting aside regular time to exercise and play with pets isn't difficult and actually, it's fun. Most kids will love this part and making it fun can help them to see that pets should not be ignored – they should be part of the family. Just like children enjoy running and playing and having a good time, so do the pets.
When you take the dog for a walk, let the kids go along. This can be an opportunity to teach the kids proper dog walking techniques and help them establish a pattern that they will follow when they are older and have pets of their own.
Allow Kids to Be Part of Simple Decisions
Part of learning responsible pet ownership is taking ownership. Kids can do this by taking ownership of some of the simple decisions regarding the pet. Examples of simple decisions could be: the pet's name, pet toys, accessories (leash, collar, dog house, cat condo, food dishes) or pet food.
Allow children to help by doing research on pet care online. Let them check out books at the library about pets so they can read for themselves about proper care. Give the kids tasks that allow them to take an active role and ownership in the pet. The more they feel part of and valued in the decision-making, the more they will want to participate.
Taking the kids to routine veterinary appointments is also a great way to allow them to be part of decisions. When our cat has been sick, the kids will help remind me when it's time to give her medicine.
Cleaning and Maintenance
This is not a favorite part of pet care, but it is necessary. Learning about proper cleaning and maintenance for pets is a must. Whether it is scooping and changing the litter boxes or scooping the doggy doo, kids can take part.
In my home, my children are expected to clean up any messes their cats make. If the cat pukes up a hairball or knocks a glass over, the kids are expected to help clean up after them. Not only do they learn that Mom isn't the only one capable of cleaning up the messes, but they learn that Boo is their cat and therefore it is their responsibility to clean up after him. This is a good lesson to learn for life in general, not just for dealing with pets.
Teach your kids early on that being a pet owner requires responsibility in addition to love. They can begin learning these lessons at a young age and continue throughout their lifetime. Caring for a pet can help prepare them for their future as a responsible adult and they – along with your pets – will thank you for it.
Read more articles by Tamara L. Waters