Posted in cats, dogs, ferrets, guinea pig, pets, rabbits

In good company

The winter holidays are a harried time to bring home a pet. We have wintry weather, work and school, presents to buy and wrap, and religious pageants to attend. Still, some parents do make gifts of a puppy, kitten, bunny or bird at this time of year.
Undoubtedly, to have a first pet can be pretty exciting. To BE a first pet can be overwhelming. Leaving that first familiar home can lead to homesickness for animals.
If you’ve toyed with the idea of a pet as a present, remember that children can accept only so much responsibility. Many a parent has become the prime caregiver of a pet after the initial attraction has worn off.
Having a pet can be a great experience for children, and with time and patience, they can learn a lot. But you have to be your child’s first role model. Even how you discipline your child is training them how to treat others, including a pet.
You may have to remind children of a pet’s needs and tailor the care they will give a pet so that it’s age-appropriate. A toddler can’t be expected to do much more than pat Fluffy or Max gently on the head … considering that toddlers might go for pulling the tail too, it’s best to keep it that simple. An 8-year-old may remember to feed a pet daily, but you may have to clean the pet’s cage or litter pan yourself. Make sure it’s clear what chores are whose responsibility. If it seems too much for your offspring to handle, you’ll need to pickup those chores yourself.
Children about age five years and younger should be supervised when with pets. Show your child how to pick up and hold the animal, and how to avoid being bitten or scratched. At the same time, you’re teaching your pet that biting and scratching are not tolerated, but being held gently can be good.
Keep an eye on your pet to see how he or she is responding to your child. If either one seems stressed it may be time for a breather.
How a pet is cared for should become routine. Knowing what to expect is important to your pet, as it is to your child. Being consistent with behavior makes for happy play for both children and pets.
My thoughts are with those pets who are joining new households in the next few days. If it has to be, then hopefully they will be where concerned adults are watching over their care.
It reminds me of the tale that leads to the holiday. As the story goes, they were on a long journey to Joseph’s hometown, and Mary was due to give birth at any moment. First time mothers usually like a familiar setting, so Mary must have been beside herself. Having to find temporary shelter must have put even more stress on the young couple. Imagine finding that the only warm place available to stay the night was among the cattle and other animals! Rather than taking offense, the young mother and father were accepted into the fold. I can only think that there’s no better place to be than in the presence of docile animals on a cold winter’s night.
I hope all newly adopted pets find the same peace in their new homes from here on in.



a little off-center, but full of good intentions

2 thoughts on “In good company

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