Click here to learn more.
The only thing as joyous and rewarding as raising our own children is getting to share the experience all over again as grandparents. My wife and I raised two wonderful people we’d be proud to know even if they weren’t our children, and we’re now busy loving and, yes, spoiling our one and only grandchild.
And while there are many important elements to raising children to be happy, thoughtful, responsible adults, as a veterinarian and lifelong animal lover, I think one of the most important things you can do for your children or grandchildren (or, really, any child you know!) is nurture a love of animals.
I have long noticed that people who love our furry and feathered companions are generally happier and healthier than people who profess to “hate” animals. But I don’t have to rely on my own observations as much these days: Research into the human-animal bond has confirmed what I have always known. A life with animals is good for us all, and possibly even more important when we are children.
Children are naturally attracted to animals, whether they’re cartoons, stuffed animals or the real deal. Adults should nurture that animal attraction even as we supervise it for safety. No infant or young child should be left alone with a pet, and all children need to be taught how to pet and hold an animal — and when to leave the family pets alone. Adults should focus on teaching what’s “right,” not what’s “wrong.” Children should be taught to respect animals but not fear them.
As children grow older, many of them want to help animals — and we should let them. This is just another way to allow animals to assist in teaching life’s most important lessons: compassion and generosity. If you doubt me about how much children want to help, start asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. A veterinarian is a very, very common answer!
If your family’s pets are too often lost in the shuffle of school, carpool, soccer, and dance lessons, it's time to look at moving them up in the priorities. While it’s true that there are many things competing for our attention, pets are family members — or they should be — and they must be cared for, just like the rest of the family.
While pets should never be left to the exclusive or primary care of a child, children can certainly take an active role in pet care and training. Don’t make tending to the pets a “have to;” use your words and behavior to model pet care as a “want to,” a loving gift to an animal who’s counting on you and your child. Assign realistic, age-related tasks, and be supportive of your child. This is important because it sends your child the message that when someone else relies on you, it’s time to shut off the video game and help.
How about a project or two? Helping children raise money for homeless pets isn’t that hard, if it’s done one penny at a time. Or just make it about small change: Have your child ask family and friends to save their change for a month. Donations will need to be counted and rolled or taken to a coin counting machine. Once this is done, your child can donate the cash to a shelter. She can also ask around and collect one key thing that shelters need a lot of: towels. A few old towels here and there really add up, and can give everyone an excuse to clean out the linen closet.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank You For Signing Up
for the Petwire newsletter, sending you all the pet news each week directly to your inbox.
Get the latest pet news, tips, tricks, and expert advice sent right to your inbox!
An animal control officer followed noises coming from a steep ravine and found a 5-year-old dog nursing a tiny…
Dr. Andy Roark (dressed in a dog suit) gives us a comical but poignant reminder that heat stress can happen to any…
From the short-legged Munchkin to the affectionate Ragamuffin, we rounded up felines with fun and clever monikers.
A photographer who loves animals volunteered his services for Alley Cat Allies and fell in love with his future wife.
This photo of Bridget Evans and Hero graduating from college quickly went viral after she posted it on Reddit.
The new Queens Zoo residents no longer need to worry about someone huffing and puffing and blowing their house in!
Despite all of his barking and bouncing, Corgnelius can't seem to convince the German Shepherd to play with him.
The fun-loving American Curl is a sociable and joyous feline who enjoys playing fetch and cuddling in your lap.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.