Friday, January 4, 2013
We’re all ardent animal lovers here at the CANIDAE RPO blog, and I know you are too or you wouldn’t be reading this. We all share a deep and abiding passion for pets, and we want nothing more than to see every animal treated with compassion, kindness and love. What better way to work towards that common goal than to instill those values in children at a young age?
Whether it’s with our own kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews, neighborhood kids or a friend’s child doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we help all children learn to form loving bonds with animals. We know from experience that pets enrich our lives in so many wonderful ways, and they teach us vital life lessons that make us better human beings. Sharing this knowledge with the young ones in our lives is a great way to pay it forward.
Kids learn by example, and it’s up to us as adults to show them not only the right way to treat animals, but how to develop a strong pet-human bond. The results are so worth it!
Adopt a Pet
Having a pet in your own home is the most obvious way to foster a child’s love of animals. They get to see firsthand just how special animals truly are, and each passing day is an opportunity for their relationship to blossom. If having a dog or cat in the family is not feasible, consider getting a smaller pet such as a hamster or gerbil which still provides a way for kids to bond with a living being.
Involve Kids in Pet Care
Learning how to care for their pets teaches kids about responsible pet ownership, but it also helps them build a lasting love for all animals. If you’re unsure which chores are appropriate for the age of your child or the type of pet you have, the ASPCA has a nice Pet Care Section with kid-friendly tips on caring for dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds and other pets.
Grooming their pet and interacting with them every day is a great way to promote bonding. Teach kids how to gently hold, pet and brush their pet, and show them how to properly play so that neither the child nor the pet gets injured. Show them the correct way to bathe a dog, and take them along on your daily walks.
The age requirement for volunteers varies by shelter – some will accept kids of middle-school age, and some allow even younger kids to help out if a parent agrees to work alongside them. If your child doesn’t meet your local shelter’s minimum age for hands-on volunteering, there are lots of other ways they can help the homeless animals. Kids can hold a blanket drive, collect pet food, have a bake sale or create handmade cat toys. If you want even more ideas, just ask your local shelter.
It’s Not Cool to Be Cruel
It’s a sad fact that children who think it’s OK to mistreat a pet because “it’s just an animal” often grow up to become violent towards humans. It’s vital that kids learn at a very young age to respect all life and to be sensitive to an animal’s pain.
Teach kids about being compassionate towards all animals, not just their own pets. Take them to zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks, and go bird-watching and hiking in nature.
Foster a Shelter Animal
If you can’t adopt a pet, perhaps you can make room for one in need of a temporary loving home. Fostering saves lives and gives shelter pets the “leg up” they need to find their own forever home. Fostering also helps you teach kids how to treat animals and how to properly care for them. It’s a win-win for all!
Nowadays, there’s no shortage of good animal-related books for kids. Whether it’s fiction books that feature likeable animal characters, heartwarming pet memoirs, or educational books about animals, reading will spark their interest in the animal kingdom and help them see the beauty of all creatures.
Top photo: Beth Nazario
Bottom photo: Michael Arnold
Read more articles by Julia Williams