It is critical to supervise all interactions between children and new pets. Never leave small children (under 5) or babies alone with a new pet; even small kittens can play rough enough to scratch or bite. Dogs and cats use their paws and mouths to play with their litter mates and explore the world, so they will try to play with their new human pack mates the same way.
Include your Children in Training
Puppies, especially, need time to grow and learn positive behavior and obedience habits, just as children need time to learn how to safely play with their new pet. Many basic obedience classes teach the proper ways to approach, pet, and engage a dog. Teaching your children these techniques in addition to teaching them how to use basic commands, will help keep your children and pets safe.
Give Your Pet Time to Adjust
Just as it takes time for you and your family to adjust to having a new pet in the house, your new pet needs time to get used to his new family and environment, too. A child’s excitement may cause a new pet a high degree of stress and anxiety that may make it difficult to get used to her new surroundings. If possible, consider keeping your new pet in an isolated area like a basement or spare bedroom for a day or so before introducing her to your children. Allow your children a few short blocks of time to play with the new puppy or kitten for the first couple of days.
Let the Kids Pitch In
Give your children some age-appropriate responsibilities to help care for your new housemate. Litter scooping and changing is probably best left to the adults, but children as young as 3-4 can help feed, groom, or walk a new pet. This will help them bond with the pet while learning good pet care habits.
Most importantly, it’s important to remember that pets are lifelong commitments, and remind your children that interacting with them safely is critical to their bond and relationship. Kids and their pets will be friends for a very long time, and the right preparation and introduction can make all the difference for both your pet and your child.