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Thinking of introducing an animal into the family? Read this!

Children under five, and animals, are wired to be the best of playmates and friends. As much as watching your little one playing or cuddling with them, there are some amazing benefits, to introducing an animal friend into their lives so early. They learn lessons on companionship and loving bonds, self-esteem, nurturing, responsibility, cooperation, the wonders of life and the necessary talk on death. That said, small children don’t quite know the boundaries of pet interaction, just yet. Here’s what you need to know to keep both your child and the animal happy and protected.

Before Pet Adoption

Adding a pet impulsively is a huge mistake.It’s not a decision to be made lightly. Ultimately, the full responsibility of the pet will rest on you until your child is old enough to take over some of the work. The pet will also come with its own set of needs, from meals and grooming upkeep, to their medical visits and vet emergencies.

Picking Child-Friendly Pets

There is a running trend, where people want to domesticate wild animals. They may be cute in the wild, but chances are that the wild animal you covet was captured under inhumane conditions. Furthermore, they can’t be fully tamed and may eventually harm you or your child.

Additionally, there are some home friendly pets that just aren’t great for little ones. For example, reptiles such as lizards and tortoises expose children to salmonella, which is commonly found in their faeces. This bacterium is often transferred through direct contact or by touching people or surfaces that have encountered the reptile. Small children and the elderly are more affected by salmonella than healthy adults. The following are some suggestions for the best pets to introduce into your child’s life.

Fish

These are considered the perfect first pet for any child. Although our brains immediately think about the goldfish, you want to start with fish that prefer to live in isolation. For instance, the Siamese fighting fish loves to live alone and can thrive in stagnant, small quantities of water without any filters, heaters, aerators or chemicals. However, salmonella is still a possible risk, thus little kids must be taught not to stick their hands into the tank.

Birds

What makes these winged friends the perfect pets are that they’re highly intelligent. Some are also incredibly social as well. Nonetheless, they are more demanding than owning a fish. For starters, they require daily attention. Your child shouldn’t hold the bird. Rather, you would have to hold it for them, as they stroke the bird’s back. You’d also have to oversee the cage’s daily cleaning and the feeding. You’d also have to teach the youngster that they shouldn’t bang the cage or throw foreign objects into or onto the cage. Best breeds include the parakeet, canary and cockatiels.

Rodents

These include guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters and gerbils. It’s advised that you stay away from ferrets, chinchillas, hedgehogs, and racoons. They can exist in small areas, and they are easy to take care of. Hamsters are more common, as they can live comfortably in solitary. With other rodents, it’s advised to buy two same-sex pairs, for their health purposes. Rodents need only small doses of gentle interaction to promote friendships. Cage cleaning happens once a week, and you’d have to guide your child on the best way to gently but securely hold the furry friend.

Cats

Furry felines are great for small living spaces. They require less attention and care than their canine counterparts.  However, they do require regular trips to the vet and consistent rounds of immunization. There are also specifics breeds and temperaments that are better suited to smaller kids, as some can be quite feisty. With small children, it’s best to have an indoor cat, to reduce their exposure to ticks and fleas, which can cause illness in your child.

Dogs

They’ll need to be house broke, go for regular vet check-ups, have daily exercise and lots of love. Dogs come in different sizes and temperaments, so you want to choose those that are the most comfortable around young children. Kid-friendly dogs include Beagles, Labradors and Golden Retrievers. Remember that dogs are pack oriented by nature. Thus, they are wired to pick on the smallest individual who shows fear. As the parent, work with the trainer to ensure everyone – including your child – establishes dominance through their everyday actions.

Pet Care

This is serious, hands-on business. Once you’ve made the decision to adopt one, there are several steps you need to go through, but aren’t limited to:

  • Research pets, and get details on their backgrounds, tendencies, and personalities. In addition, look up their specific care guide.
  • Consult a vet on the pets you’ve narrowed down to, and ask them questions. They should also be able to direct you to breeders or animal pounds that are known to be ethical.
  • Commit to the vaccination, check-up and immunization that the pet needs. Keeping them healthy improves their quality of life and keeps your child safe.
  • Teach your child the proper way to interact with the specific animal. Read up on best practices with handling, approaching and interaction with the specific type of animal and instruct your child accordingly. Educate them why they shouldn’t tease or pull animal’s extremities. Additionally, they shouldn’t approach them when they’re in vulnerable scenarios such as eating, sleeping or when they are with their offspring. All your child’s interaction with pets need to be actively supervised. This way you’ll be able to read their body language and diffuse any situation should either become stressed.
  • Ensure that they understand that animals are living companions with feelings and needs. Teach them to respect, love and care for them.
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