Bringing a new addition into the family is always exciting. A new pet brings unique qualities to a home, and everyone loves a new cat or dog!
However, this can present other problems. If you have children, how to introduce the children and your new pet? For everything to run smoothly, everyone needs to get on well together. Owning a pet can be a wonderful thing for children. It can teach them empathy, responsibility, and can lower stress levels.
Children and a pet can bond for life. However, first impressions are important. So how can you make the first meeting as smooth as possible?
Give the New Pet Time to Settle In
Moving into a new home is stressful for anyone, and cats and dogs are no exception. Especially for a kitten or puppy, they may feel stressed and nervous with a complete change of environment.
Your children might be very excited to see the new cat or dog, but it’s important to give your new pet time to adjust. It’s good to prepare a special area for your cat or dog. Everyone needs personal space, and your pet is no exception. Give your pet time to settle into their space, and maybe explore some of the house.
Once your pet seems more at home, you can think about introducing your pet and your children.
Choose a Relaxed Environment
When you do introduce your children and your new pet, choose your location wisely. Introducing the pet and the children outdoors is a good idea. This gives you plenty of space to work with and may make the pet feel less trapped.
Remember that children tend to be loud, energetic, and make sudden movements. This can spook a new pet, especially if they’re still adjusting to you and your home.
Keep Everyone Calm
Your children are going to be very excited to see the new pet, and the pet is likely going to be excited to see the children! However, it’s important to keep the first meeting calm, relaxed, and controlled.
If your new pet is a cat, make sure they have a safe perch, ideally high above your child’s reach. For a dog, it’s best to keep them on a leash for the first meeting.
Have your child sit calmly while you bring the new pet into the room and see how each one reacts to the other. Keep an eye on how your pet is reacting to the child. If your pet seems nervous or hesitant, don’t force an interaction.
Let your pet come to the children, rather than the other way around.
Teach Children How to Treat Pets
This is especially important if you have young children. Children don’t automatically know how to treat a pet. Your child might see the pet as a big stuffed toy, and this is a recipe for disaster.
Things to Teach your Child about Pets:
Always be gentle when stroking a pet.
Avoid areas like the belly, tail, feet, etc.
Leave pets alone while they eat or sleep.
Never pull on fur and whiskers.
Teaching your child that pets are not toys is a good way to avoid bites and scratches later on.
Even if the introduction is going well, it’s important to supervise your children and pets when they’re together. Keep an eye out for warning signs that your pet is becoming uncomfortable:
Growling in dogs, or hissing in cats
Stiff posture, freezing
Whining or licking lips in dogs
If you notice any of these signs, simply step in to give your pet more space, and distract your child with something else. If necessary, remind your children about how to properly treat pets, as an excited child can forget the rules.
Never allow your child to hurt a pet in any way, even by accident or in rough play.
Pets and children can build fantastic bonds that can last a lifetime. If you can, involve your child in caring for your pet. This could involve helping with grooming, giving treats, food, or water to the pet, or more. Soon enough, your pet will feel comfortable and happy with every member of the family!