Pets & Kids: The Perfect Blend

on Monday, 27 April 2015 Posted in VetNotes, Cats, Dogs, General

Pets & Kids: The Perfect Blend

In recognition of National Pets and Kids Day April 26th, Dr. Vernon thought of some helpful tips on blending children and pets in the family. 



   I remember quite clearly hounding my parents for a dog from a very young age. My mother resisted – first trying to pacify me by purchasing a guinea pig in hopes this would detour me from the dog dream. While I loved my fuzzy little guinea pig, and learned a lot about pet care and responsibility from it, I was still longing for a dog buddy I could call my own.  I was about 7 or 8 years old when my mom finally felt we were ready and we adopted our first dog from the shelter. “Fluffy” was a poodle/terrier mix that was full of energy and mischief. We loved her dearly for the many years we had her.

   Now, as a mother of four, I know just how important it is to really decide whether or not bringing a new pet into the family is the right choice. Of course, the child involved will swear they will help with feeding and walking and bathing, and they probably will initially until the novelty of the new pet fades. There are some very important topics that should be discussed among the parents, THEN involve the children once the decision has been made to bring home a pet (or not!).

  First – are all the adults in the house in agreement on pet ownership? If so, what type of pet? I feel strongly that a pet should not be given as a gift or a surprise as the recipient of the pet may not fully be aware of the responsibility or want that responsibility.

  If the decision is made to bring a pet home, then what type and what age? While puppies and kittens are cute and fun, they are A LOT of extra work and may require more initial veterinary care than a healthy adult dog. Housetraining is a tremendous commitment, especially for people that work, and should be considered as well.

   How will you decide to train the kids to be kind to your new pet? Yes, you read it right – train the KIDS. Most children have no idea how to be gentle and approach an animal. It is of utmost importance that children be supervised with a new pet and be taught what is acceptable and what is not. Children who are loud and rough with a puppy or kitten can permanently damage the way these animals cope with children.

   All pets should have a “safe zone” away from the kids. Don’t get me wrong, my dogs and cats love getting attention from my children, but the kids were also taught that they are not to approach the pets when they are sleeping, and if the dogs or cats have retreated under a table or bed, they are by no means to go under there to coax them out. When my husband and I blended our family, it took a lot of effort and teamwork to be sure that all the children and pets were transitioning well and that the kids learned boundaries. It CAN be done. Our family is made up of 4 kids, 4 dogs and 3 cats – all coexisting due to a lot of effort on my husband and I, initially. Once the ground rules were set and enforced, it was easy!

  There are many great resources available for how to merge children and pets in a family. Consider checking out the ASPCA or Humane Society of the United States websites for additional information. 


Kelly Vernon, DVM

Dr. Vernon graduated from the University of Florida in 2004 with her Doctorate in Veteriary Medicine.