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When Alex and I were first dating and living in an apartment, I begged and begged for a puppy. I wanted one so, so bad, but the reality was I was a full-time student and working an almost-full-time internship and Alex was working long, strange hours. So bringing a puppy into our lives would have been both irresponsible and mean. Tired of my begging, he told me that we should just get a kitten – he assumed I just wanted something small and fluffy to love me forever. I went Craigslist searching and found a litter of teeny tiny kittens for adoption and we picked up Molly that night.
Fast forward almost 5 years (!!!) and we have a cat. A full-grown fat cat. While she loves, loves, loves Alex, she is mostly indifferent to me, unless she is quite literally hunting me. She’s done it for as long as we had her, and it’s safe to say that she isn’t the kindest of cats. In fact, I would venture to say that she hates people.
With this in mind, I’m sure you could understand my fears when I was pregnant with Ryan – my MIL, a life-long cat owner, has told my stories of having to get rid of aggressive cats when Alex was little. I didn’t want that for Molly – even though she can be mean, she is still part of out family. The fear escalated when I realized that Cooper, who was still a puppy when I had gotten pregnant, had never interacted with a kid before we brought Ryan home.
Thankfully, both of our animals have been wonderful with our kids from day one. I think they sensed both of my pregnancies, and when I was pregnant Molly would come over and rub on my belly, chasing me just a little bit less than normal. But as one might assume, Ryan isn’t always the kindest to either of them – being only 2, it’s hard for him to understand the need to be kind and gentle with his animal friends, but he’s definitely learning. So today I thought I would share some of our tips for how to safely raise kids around pets.
How to Safely Raise Kids Around Pets
- Always be aware. This is first and foremost. Everyone has heard a story of a family pet reaching their breaking point – remember that your pet is an animal and still has animal instincts. If you don’t think that your child has enough understanding at the moment to respect an animal and take cues from them, make sure you are always in the room when they are together.
- Teach ‘gentle’ from day one. This is probably the best thing we ever did in terms of toddler-pet relations. The second Ryan noticed Molly, we tried to forge a respectful and gentle relationship. Keep it simple by choosing one word to continually say and demonstrate – we use ‘gentle’. He knows what gentle means and that if I say “gentle,” in a warning tone he is going to hard or touching her in a way she does not enjoy. (side note – it also really helped with introducing him to Owen.)
- ‘Help’ them pet. When they are very little, take your kiddos hands and teach them the kind and caring way to pet their fur sibling. This will help them to understand the correct pressure and action for showing affection to your pet.
- Find a space for your pets as needed. Although we have a very small home, there are certain places that, if Ryan is getting a little rowdy I can put Molly and keep her happy and safe. Maybe this is somewhere they hide naturally, or a higher up window, but choose a place your toddler can’t get to and that your cat can hang out. Molly really likes hanging out in our bathroom which gets a lot of direct sunlight, so I usually place her in there. If either Cooper or Ryan starts getting out of hand, I tend to send Cooper out into our backyard to help with his craziness.
- Remind them that you still care. A big concern of mine when I was pregnant with Ryan was that Cooper would feel left out. (Funny since I had the same concern for Ryan when I was pregnant with Owen!) Help avoid this by making sure to spend quality time with your pets and, if possible, involve them in your family time. We love taking Cooper for walks as a family and when the boys are asleep I give Molly some extra petting time.
- Treats! Okay, bribing your pets = not good, but encouraging good behavior/reinforcing love with some treats – that I’m all for! Recently, I’ve been loving getting Cooper Purina DentaLife chews – they’re the perfect combo so stinky breath fighters and treats! (check here for a $2 off coupon! )I loved the added texture that helps clear Coop’s teeth so that feel a little bit better when he’s licking dinner off of Ryan’s face.
For Molly, we try to steer clear of treats, since she tends to be on the heftier side, opting instead for Purina Cat Chow Healthy Weight to help keep her healthy and living longer. I really love heading over to my local Stop & Shop for our pet food since they have such a wide range of natural and healthy pet products designed especially with the health and wellness of my pets in mind. The reality is, if you’re like me you can’t (or just don’t want to!) go to a special pet store each time you need snacks or food for your pet.
I love the wide variety of food and toys chosen with active pets in mind that I can find at Stop & Shop stores – meaning I can get my favorite furry friends everything they need without having to lug the kids to yet another store. Win for momma! Oh, and on October 16 the local Sunday newspaper will have an insert with Purina Beyond coupons, so be sure to keep an eye out for that!
Safely raising kids around pets is definitely possible, as long as you take the right precautions to ensure the safety and happiness of everyone. Be diligent, kind, and stay strong – the lifelong bond your kiddos will have with their furry counterparts will be well worth it in the end!
So tell me – how have you taught your kids and animals to be friendly with one another? Did your parents have any great strategies when you were growing up? Have you tried DentaLife treats yet? Let me know in the comments!