Kids do love the thought of having a cute animal they can call their own, but the reality of owning one and the responsibilities that entails can be very different, particularly in the early days.
Let's face it, parents already have a full plate, and a pet can bring a fair bit of upheaval to the family home.
That's why it's so important, from the very beginning, that children understand just what they'll be in for when it comes to ensuring that the family pet is happy and healthy.
Dr Jo Righetti is an animal behaviourist, helping people understand pets. Jo works with a variety of companies and organisations and is an Ambassador of Animal Welfare League Australia and Purina One and Purina Beyond.
With four pet-loving sons of her own, Dr Jo knows a thing or two about how to encourage children to get hands on and help out with the family pet. She's shared her best tips for you to try below.
Dr Jo's tips for getting children to help with pets
Teach your children why it's important to care for their furry friends
- Teach your children the importance of looking after their pets just like it's important to look after ourselves – this will help them understand the significance of owning a pet.
- The key is to teach your kids easy and simple ways they can improve their pet's health for example feeding your cat a high-quality pet food or talking the dog for a long walk.
Lead by example
- Kids follow your lead, so show them how to be caring and gentle with animals and how to treat them with love and respect. They'll be following suit and looking
Allocate age appropriate responsibilities
- Allocate your children pet related tasks that reflect their age so that they are able to complete it successfully and will be encouraged to come back and do it again.
- For example a 3 year old could be responsible for filling up the family pets' water bowl (under supervision) whilst the 10 year old can be responsible for brushing the dog or cat.
Create a pet roster
- A great way to organise responsibilities for the family pet and have fun at the same time is through the pet roster.
- Rather than assigning tasks, let the kids be a part of developing the roster so they can enjoy the jobs they're given. I suggest having a chart with all the tasks laid out and each time a task is done give out a sticker.
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Get the kids involved in exercise and training for your
- Exercise and training are another easy way to get your kids involved in looking after the family pet and taking their responsibility of them to the next level.
- Get the kids involved in basic training/commands for your pooch, sit, stay down, come to you, and walk on a leash are easily taught with adult supervision. If you're a cat owner, the best way to have fun and get your cat exercising it to use toys. Mice toys or a cat tunnel are both great ideas!
- After a while and lots of positive praise, your kids will start to love the idea of looking after and caring for their pet, but be sure to ease them into it and remember it's up to you to keep things fun and interesting!