they all like milkFor many parents, watching the bond that our children share with our family pets is priceless. But for many parents, pet ownership creates an unparalleled learning opportunity, too. Involving kids in pet care can teach children of all ages the lessons of responsibility, compassion, health care, and decision-making.

Whether you’re a parent that is just starting to test the waters of involving your kids in pet care, or the parent of an older child looking to increase his or her pet care responsibilities, the following tasks are worthy of your consideration as you plan for your child’s responsibilities in caring for your family pet.

Daily Pet Care

While not every task is appropriate for every age, there are daily activities that all children can be a part of, even if it’s just talking to them about why you’re doing what you’re doing and what caring for a pet entails.

Naturally you don’t want to overwhelm you youngster, but he or she should understand that caring for a pet is a commitment and not a passing fad. You’ll want to make caring for your pet fun, but also involve them in some of the less-than-glamorous aspects, too.

Never make your pet’s survival dependent on your child. Your child should know that your pet will be OK, even if they mess up. After all, this is a learning experience, not a reality TV show.

That being said, here are some ways your child can help care for your pet at home:

·      Daily feeding and watering

·      Letting you know when it’s time to purchase pet food and supplies

·      Picking out treats and toys

·      Daily walks and exercise

·      Cleaning up after your pet (indoors and out)

·      Bathing and brushing your pet

·      Picking up your pet’s toys

·      Teaching your pet new tricks

·      Helping to ensure that your yard is secure so your pet can’t escape

·      Keeping your pet’s bedding washed

·      Keeping your pet’s leash and other gear where it belongs

These pet care basics can be great for kids, and will likely help them grow up to have a better understanding of what caring for a pet entails. It’s also likely that these tasks will strengthen the bond between your children and pets.

Involving Children in Veterinary Care

Children are naturally curious, and thrive on information. Encourage their questions, and answer them as best you can while still remaining sensitive to their feelings and fears.

Depending on the age of your child, and his or her understanding of the ways of the world, he or she may also be curious about your pet’s veterinary care, too. And while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to involving your child in your pet’s health care, we do encourage you to be open and honest with your kids about any medical conditions your pet may have, why they exist, and what might happen.

Bringing children to routine wellness exams and other veterinary appointments gives children the opportunity to learn about veterinary health and ask questions that they may have about their pet’s health and care.

At Naperville Animal Hospital, we welcome young pet owners to participate in these appointments, and are happy to answer their questions, as well as yours.

If you have any other questions about involving kids in pet care, or if you have a child that is curious about veterinary medicine, please give us a call. We’re happy to help you cultivate the next generation of pet owners and budding veterinarians.