When you visit the pet store or animal shelter, rats can look so cute and cuddly - and they are. But, should you really let your child have a pet rat? As a mom who has made this decision before, I know full well the responsibility it takes. There are many factors involved, such as the safety of the animal, the safety of your child, proper rat care, and more. Rats and other small animals are often an impulse buy. But here's what you and your child need to know about owning one - preferably beforehand.
Does your child respect animals? Before ever bringing a pet rat (or any other pet) into the home, you should know how your child feels about animals. Visit animal shelters and residences of friends and family with pets to get a good idea. Let your child interact with animals and see what the reaction is. If you have already brought home the animal without doing that, consider allowing your child to attend animal care classes with the pet. Many large pet stores and animal shelters offer these classes for free or for an affordable rate. Some include them in the adoption fee.
You and your child should know how to care for rats. As mentioned above, your child can take animal care classes. But there are other ways to learn about the care of pet rat as well. Books written by trusted sources are a great start. If you have already adopted a rat, your first step should be a visit to the vet. Even if your child's pet rat has come vetted and vaccinated, it is still important to start routine visits. The first visit can help you and your child understand how to properly care for a rat. The examination will also allow your vet to let you know if there's anything you should watch out for.
Rats ideally come in pairs. Some rats will do well alone. But they may be happier when they have a companion. This is even true if they have great human companionship. Are you prepared to let your child adopt two rats if it becomes evident that your rat needs company? Can your child handle two rats? One rat is already a good deal of responsibility. Multiply that times two and if your child is willing and able to handle that, a pet rat (or two) may be a good idea.
Rats are very social. Rats prefer to have a companion. However, they also enjoy human companionship. If your child is afraid to hold a rat or will not be around enough to give ample attention, adopting one is a bad idea. Rats enjoy being held and played with for long periods of time. They are highly intelligent and become attached to their human companions. When we owned a rat, he spent more time being held than he did in his cage. He immediately climbed right out of the cage into our arms anytime his cage door was opened. If anything was going on, he wanted to be a part of it. If your child is not ready for this kind of interaction, you should not adopt a pet rat.
Because of their docile nature, rats can make great pets for kids as young as five. If your child is not afraid to hold rats and knows to wash hands before and after handling them, they may be the perfect choice. Be sure you and your child have also researched and are aware of risks and proper care. After that point, your child is likely ready to begin the search for a great companion or two.
*The author is not a licensed animal care specialist. Her advice is based purely on personal experience and research and is not meant to replace the advice of a licensed professional.
Your child is begging for a pet and you just can't say no - or maybe you want to adopt an animal just as bad as she does. Not every pet fits in every home. Everyone should get along with the pet and likewise. You or your kids should also be able to properly care for the pet. How do you decide which pet is right for your kids? Perhaps my advice as a mother of children with pets (who are researching for one or two more) can help you in your search.
Decide on the proper size. Before ever going out to bring a pet into the family, you need to know these limits. Would your kids care for a smaller or larger pet better? If you are renting, what type of pets are allowed? Does the size of the pet affect your monthly rent or mortgage? Will your child want to hold the pet or just pet him? Does your family prefer a caged pet or a larger one that's free to roam the house, like a cat or dog? If you have desire for a larger pet, like a horse, do you have an appropriate amount of room? These are the type of size questions you should consider.
Research breeds for compatibility. No matter if you are adopting a dog, cat, hamster, or other animal breed can make a difference. Some breeds are better with children than others. For instance, we have both a dwarf hamster (Buddy) and a Roborovski hamster (Butterscotch). Buddy bites at times. Butterscotch does not, as Robo hamsters have smaller mouths and do not bite humans. I am the primary handler of Buddy. Anyone can handle Butterscotch without worrying about being bitten...if they can catch him that is. He's the fast one. Hamsters need attention and handling. This is just one reason it's important to consider breeds when adopting pets with kids in the house.
Set up meetings with pets of interest. Once you know which type of pets you want to adopt, make appointments to meet with specific ones you and kids are interested in getting to know. This helps avoid problems with compatibility once you finally take a pet home. Let the kids play with the animals and see how they react. If there will be more than one animal, all animals and people should meet together. This way you can see how well everyone gets along together. If it's not a good match, then you know that pet (or pets) would be better suited to another family. But if everyone hits it off easily, you may have found the perfect addition/s to your family.
Consider the responsibility of your child. How responsible is your child with other aspects of life? Can she take care of an animal properly? Will she? If your kids are not responsible enough to take care of objects, what do you think will happen with an animal? Remember that an animal is very different from a toy. They are living, breathing creatures with feelings and they depend on their owners to care for them. If your child does not care for them, will you? If no one will do this with certainty, instead of deciding which pet is right, you should be telling your child no to having a pet altogether.
Weigh all options before the final decision. Consider all of the aspects mentioned above and more before choosing a pet for your child. Size, breed, compatibility, and responsibility are some of the most important factors when choosing a pet. But there are also many more, such as time, cost of care (including vet bills and pet insurance), and dedication. Before ever deciding on a pet, weigh all the pros and cons to make absolute certain that your child and his pet are compatible and that you are giving the pet a good home.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
When Kids Mistreat Animals
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
A frequent reader contacted "Ask Lyn" for advice on this common scenario. You hear a pitiful mew and notice your toddler has the cat by her tail - again. Just two hours earlier you scolded him for doing the same thing. Why is your child hurting the cat and what can you do to stop this behavior? My years of experience as a mom and nanny have shown me several answers to this question.
Why did my child hurt the cat to begin with and what does it all mean? It may simply be a misunderstanding on your child's part or it could mean something deeper. In most kids, it simply means a lack of understanding how to behave with an animal. The ASPCA states that some adults who have been violent toward people also have a history of being violent toward animals. Children who have been exposed to violence also may attempt to show violence toward an animal. It is safer for your pets, as well as your child, to correct the behavior as soon as possible. It is important to remember that just because your child does this, it does not necessarily mean it's intentional or that she will be violent with animals or people in the future.
He doesn't know any better. Has your child been told why pulling a cat's tail or petting him backward is not a good idea? When you warn your child about these and other ill actions toward the cat, don't just say "No". Explain why it's not a good idea. Your child may see the family pet as a toy and not a living being. Some kids need reasons behind requests. You also need to explain things in terms that make sense to your child. A 3 year old will understand that pulling fur feels the same to a cat that pulling hair does to a human.
She hasn't been exposed to animals previously. If your child has never been exposed to animals before, especially cats, that could explain her actions. When a child hurts a cat, it doesn't necessarily mean she is being mean. She just may not have any history to tell her brain what the proper behavior is toward a cat. Ideally, parents should expose children to pets before adopting them. If it's too late for that, limit your child's exposure to the pet until she understands and demonstrates proper cat treatment.
Use gentle guidance and redirection. If you want your child to stop hurting your cat, you'll need to take a look at the whole picture. Exposing him to animals is the proactive end of the stick. But if the behavior has already started, you may also need to be reactive. Each time your child pulls the cat's tail, pets him backward, or otherwise treats him unfairly, use gentle redirection. Gently take his hand and use it to pet the cat slowly and gently. Say things like, "This is how we pet the kitty." "The kitty likes it when we do this." "Ooh, feel how soft the kitty's fur is."
Be consistent. Whether you choose to use the same methods I found useful or another method, the key in making it work is consistency. In order for the lesson to sink in, you need to act the same way each time your child is around the cat. If you use gentle guidance only sometimes and let it slide the rest of the time, this sends a mixed message to your child. What it says is that she only has to treat the cat nice sometimes, which is not what you want to teach her.
If your child cannot treat the cat properly, you may have to separate the two for safety on both counts.
*The above is meant for informational purposes only. Always ask your pediatrician and veterinarian for guidance in your specific situation.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
That sweet fuzzy face separated from you by glass is pulling at your heartstrings. Your child is also attached. But before adopting, kids need to learn about cat care and how to relate to them. Interacting positively with cats holds great benefits for the kids, as well as the animal. Our family will be adopting a cat soon, but we wouldn't dream of doing so without preparation.
When they hold a cat for the first time, show and explain how. Show your child what to do by picking up the cat up yourself. While doing this explain what you are doing and why. Talk about wrong ways to hold the cat as well. You can illustrate the lesson to your child further by talking about how they would prefer to be held and why it matters. Your child needs to know that cats will get hurt or irritated if they are held a certain way. Many cats love attention when they are held the right way, so a large part of interacting with cats is holding them.
Focus on being gentle. This is one of the most important things kids need to know about interacting with cats and other animals. If your child is gentle, cats will respond more positively to their attention. If your kids are younger, you can take their hand and direct them into petting a cat gently. Older kids should need only your verbal direction. Let them know what is and is not gentle. For instance, even if you do it softly, petting a cat backward is not gentle because of the way it feels to a cat.
Explain what certain sounds and behaviors mean. Cats will make certain sounds or act a particular way, depending on how they feel. Kids should know that hissing means the cat feels threatened and they should stay away. Growling means the same thing. Purring means keep doing what you're doing. The cat is enjoying it. If a cat runs away or hides, that means the child should leave them be. Rubbing up against a person means a cat likes that person and wants attention. Show your child how to pay attention to a cat's cues and react based on that. For instance, if a cat starts to move around while being held, the child should gently set the cat down.
Test them around other people's pets, as well as those in shelters. This is going to be your key indicator of what your child needs to know about cats. It will also help you teach them how to properly interact. Cats will vary by breed, as well as individual personality. Let your kids play with other people's cats, having each person explain what their cat likes and dislikes. It's also a good idea to do this at an animal shelter or rescue. This way, you give a needy cat attention and you also help teach your child. Then, if your child bonds with the cat, you can see about adopting.
Allow them consistent exposure and practice. In order to fully illustrate how to interact with cats, allow your child practice as often as possible. If no one you know owns any cats, animal shelters and rescues are the perfect opportunity for this. Just make sure to only give attention to the cats who are open to it. My kids have become experts at getting even the most timid cats to open up because of consistently giving cats attention at our local animal rescue and shelter. This, along with other things, shows me they are ready to adopt and care for a cat responsibly.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Lyn Lomasi & Richard Rowell are life & business partners. Owners of the Write W.A.V.E. Media network, they are your content superheroes to the rescue! Running their network, tackling deadlines single handedly, and coaching fellow writers & entrepreneurs to be thought leaders is their top priority. While rescuing civilians from boring content and marketing, they also conquer the world, living the RV life with their awesomely crazy family and telling The Nova Skye Story. They also strive to one day cuddle with lions and giraffes. Until then, they’ll settle for furry rescue kitties and doggies.
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