Sometimes it can feel like your children will never stop asking for a pet, especially as Christmas draws near and the topic of gifts comes up. As any pet owner will tell you, having pets has pros and cons. But as far as pros go, pets offer love and companionship. And having children care for one can teach them accountability, pride and responsibility.
Teaching children interactively how to care for their new-found friend helps them understand the work involved. Here are some tips to help ensure the pet gets the best care possible and the child is engaged from the start.
Teach animal needs
Pets need many of the same things humans need, like food, water and shelter. Help kids understand that to keep their new friend healthy, they need to help provide these needs and that certain rules must be followed.
Create a feeding chart
Develop a pet feeding schedule with your children so they understand the importance of specific times for feeding. A weekly chart on the wall can help them keep track of meals. It’s important for them to participate — they can decorate a dry erase board with animal stickers, glue-on stars and brightly colored markers.
Make a special pet spot
Just like their owners, pets love to have their own special area to relax. Let the kids pick out the accessories for their new friend— be it a hot pink puppy bed or coastal-inspired sea décor for the fish bowl.
Emphasize walks and attention
From daily affection to regular exercise, have your children agree to a time to play and interact with their pet. Be sure to also designate regular times to take the dog outside to urinate, as well as get some exercise.
Practice pet ownership
Ask neighbors or relatives if you can pet-sit one of their pets for a weekend. With your child or children in charge of taking care of the animal, they’ll see firsthand whether they are up to the task. You will also be able to gauge if getting a pet is a proper decision for you as a family.
Make cleaning a routine
A healthy, clean environment is a must for pets. Divide responsibilities and enlist each child with different duties, such as making sure food and water bowl areas, cages and litter boxes are maintained and cleaned. For cats, using a product such as Arm & Hammer Ultra Last Clumping Cat Litter can lengthen the time spent changing litter because it is long-lasting and has odor destroyers. There are also special odor-absorbing pads for puppies and adult dogs available. For other tips on cat and dog care, visit ultralastlitter.com.