Children and pets: Tips for bringing a pet into your home

Pets can be a lot of fun if your family is ready for the responsibilities that come with them. They can help teach children values and social skills. Most relationships between people and pets are positive.

There are some important health and safety considerations to remember when bringing a pet into your home. Both your children and pet will be happier and healthier if they know and understand the rules. It’s important to take the time to prepare and understand the realities of having a pet.

If you have a child with allergies, think carefully about whether a pet is a good idea. If his allergies get worse, it can be hard to find a new home for your pet. If you get a new pet and your child starts to show signs of allergies, consult your doctor for advice.

Pets do not make good gifts, especially around holidays. Families can be too busy at these times to give a new pet the care and attention it needs.

If you decide to adopt a pet, make sure your pet is healthy:

  • Adopt your pet from someone you trust. Your veterinarian (vet) will be able to offer suggestions.
  • Consider the final adult size of your pet when deciding which kind to adopt. Don’t forget that they grow and might get bigger than you are prepared to handle.
  • Make sure your pet sees the vet every year and has all vaccinations.
  • Have your dog or cat spayed or neutered.
  • Get veterinary care when your pet is sick.
  • Watch for any contact your pet has with other animals that might carry disease.

When you have a pet in your home:

  • Teach your children to treat animals gently and with respect.
  • Never leave a young child alone with an animal. Accidents can happen when children tease pets or touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Involve your child in the care of your pet. This helps children learn a sense of responsibility.
  • Make sure your pet has quiet and comfortable place to go. Don’t allow your pets to sleep with children.
  • Do not allow your pet to roam alone in a baby’s room.
  • Don’t allow your pet to lick your child’s face or any cuts or scratches.

Dogs

  • Look for a dog with a gentle nature.
  • Older dogs are a good idea only if they have been around children. Puppies can be a lot fun but tend to have lots of energy. Puppies need a lot of time and patience for proper training. Involve all family members in the training so that the commands used are easy for both your children and the dog to remember.
  • Don’t leave your dog alone in the house for long periods of time. If you have to be away for long periods, a dog might not be the right pet for your family.
  • Keep your dog secure in a space that she can be comfortable in.
  • Expose your dog to different types of people and situations.
  • Dogs need lots of exercise. Encourage your children to join you on walks with the dog. Remember to use a leash when walking your dog.

Cats

  • Keep your cat indoors to protect him from harm. This will also ensure he doesn’t come into contact with any animals that carry disease.
  • Keep the litter box clean. Always wear gloves when cleaning the box and wash hands thoroughly when done.

If a dog or cat is not the right type of pet for your home, there are other choices. Talk to your vet for ideas and tips on care.

Reptiles, wild or exotic animals

  • Reptiles, such as turtles, lizards and snakes, often carry Salmonella, a kind of bacteria (germ) that can be very hard to kill. Always wash your hands after handling a reptile.
  • Exotic animals, such as sugar gliders, hedgehogs or monkeys, are not good pets for children. They can be dangerous, or they may need special care that young children can’t give.
  • Wild animals should not be kept as pets.
  • Ferrets are not a good pet for homes with young children.

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