Guest blog by Alicia Meulensteen, a mom of two who works in Development at the ASPCA.
Just when you think you’re getting a handle on the whole baby thing, your little ones change the game as they become mobile.
A crawling, standing and cruising baby turns formerly harmless items into hazards. Children have an uncanny ability to find things you didn’t even know were on the floor—and shove them into their mouths. Pet toys, cat hair and other odds and ends became increasingly difficult to keep away from our little ones.
Then there was the litter box. I could tolerate my children eating a bit of sand at the playground, or sampling the odd fistful of cat hair (it builds immunity, right?), but the thought of baby’s hands anywhere near a litter box was too much. Our family lives in an apartment, so we don’t have the option of putting the box in the basement or elsewhere—we needed to be a bit more creative.
Our solution was probably best summed up as “out of sight, out of mind,” and it was quite effective. While renovating our apartment, we created a special space within a low cabinet for the litter box. Pointing away from the living room, you don’t know it’s there unless you see a cat entering or exiting. The box is located near our little “mud” area where we also keep shoes, coats and the stroller. We initially put up a baby gate to keep the whole area out of bounds to our toddler, and the cat quickly learned how to get around the gate when she needed access to the box. I’ve seen other variations of this in catalogs: litter boxes disguised as end tables, for example, that keep most of the box covered so access from most sides is limited. Some even have pet doors to cover the entrance.
As my son got older, we removed the gate but kept a watchful eye on him. We explained that the litter box is the cat’s potty to help him learn that it is definitely not a sandbox. So far, so good.
Do you share a small space with kids and pets? If so, how do you handle the challenge of keeping kids away from your pets’…personal items? Share your experiences in the comments.
Guest blogger Lauren Martin lives in New York with her husband, three cats, one bunny, one son and one daughter on the way. Lauren works in the Legal Department for the ASPCA, has published articles on animal law and taught animal law at St. John’s University School of Law.
Many people would agree that children’s lives are enriched through positive relationships with animals. Living with my three cats and rabbit has taught my son gentleness, patience and appreciation for the love and fun that animals bring to our lives. When I was pregnant with my son, I had anticipated that he would learn these lessons, but what I hadn’t foreseen was that my animals’ lives would be enhanced as well.
For the first few months of his life, my son slept in a bassinet in my room. Each night, I was amused and touched when my bunny would settle down beside my son’s bassinet and go to sleep. Once my son moved into his own room and slept in his crib, I would often find my bunny standing guard outside my son’s room—she weighs four pounds and is quite intimidating. Should I dare to let the baby cry for more than a few seconds, I will inevitably find my bunny hopping over to me with her ears on alert giving me a look that says, “Mom, we have to take care of the baby!”
My cats have also enjoyed having a little one in the home, and they have formed a special bond with him. Unfortunately, my cat, Cosette, has been very ill battling kidney disease. At a recent visit to the veterinarian, she was feeling particularly sick and seemed very despondent. At the veterinarian’s office she tends to stay in her carrier or look to me for comfort, but on that day, she walked out of her carrier and over to my 18-month-old son and put her head in his lap. In that moment, I realized that my son had really touched the heart of this very shy and sensitive cat who looked for him in her moment of great need.
As my son continues to mature and as I get ready to introduce a new daughter to our family, I cannot wait to see these relationships develop. I can only hope that the love that they give to one another continues to grow and that they are better people and animals for having each other in their lives.
Are you making plans for a family outing this weekend? If you’re in the New York City area, you can join Disney Junior’s Jake and Sofia on Friday, July 25 for the next stop on the Pirate and Princess Power of Doing Good Tour.
The event will take place in Harlem’s Riverbank State Park from 8:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. and is open to the public at no cost. Kids will have the opportunity to participate in engaging activities related to nature, animals, storytelling and giving back to the community. There will also be a sing-and-dance-along with Jake and Sofia. The ASPCA has teamed up with Disney Junior to provide educational resources that will help children about animal welfare.
So far, the tour has made stops in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and will visit Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles in August. Entry to Friday’s event will be open on a first come, first served basis. You can follow all the action by searching the #PowerofDoingGood hashtag on social media.
Guest Blogger Emily Cappo is a writer and blogger at Oh Boy Mom. She is a mom to three boys and one girl dog named Matilda, a sweet and cuddly Labradoodle. Matilda and Emily are also a certified pet therapy team.
We recently discovered we have a bunny living in our backyard who seems to be separated from her parents. We could be completely wrong about her solo lifestyle, but we haven’t seen any mama or papa rabbits around.
We were fascinated by watching her tiny body hop around the yard. Soon after her arrival, she discovered my husband’s precious landscaping and now spends much of her day munching on all of our plants. While we’d prefer she find some carrots a la Bugs Bunny, we are compassionate animal lovers and continue to let her feast on our backyard buffet.
This adorable scene continued day after day until Matilda, our exuberant Labradoodle, noticed our little visitor from the nearby window.
Like many dogs, Matilda is a squirrel fanatic. She watches them intently from inside the house and as soon as we slide that back door open, the chase is on. We don’t worry too much about this because squirrels are fast and can climb trees in a hurry.
However, a baby rabbit is a different story. She could hop around, but did she have the speed to escape a crazed dog? We weren’t so sure.
We became very careful about letting Matilda out in the yard, always scanning the shrubbery before opening the back door. This worked okay until one day one of our kids opened the door and Matilda darted after the bunny as fast as her long Labradoodle legs would carry her.
Luckily, the bunny did not become Matilda’s play toy—she either ran down a hole, or scampered away through the thick bushes. But, we still worried about the next time Matilda spotted the bunny, who may not be so fortunate for round two.
Our backyard is fenced in so while Matilda can’t get out, the bunny is small enough to squeeze through or burrow underneath. And that seems to be what she did, because we haven’t seen her in a few days.
She’s likely living next door now, sticking her tongue out at Matilda from the other side of the fence saying, “nah, nah, nah, nah.”
As for Matilda, she’s still holding out hope that the bunny will come back and be her “friend.”
Guest blog by Kathleen Makolinski, DVM, ASPCA Senior Director Shelter Medicine Service and Shelter Research and Development. Kathleen gradu¬ated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. After working as an associate veterinarian for five years, she served as Director of Veterinary Services for a non-profit animal shelter. Since then, Kathleen co-founded and served as president of Feral Cat FOCUS, a community advocacy group for free-roaming cats and co-founded Operation PETS, a stationary spay/neuter clinic in Western New York.
I am very fortunate to have an 8-year-old son named Charlie who is very eager to learn about every type of animal. Given his seemingly insatiable curiosity, my husband and I search for opportunities for Charlie to interact with and build respect for many kinds of animals. These opportunities often include summer day camps, books from the library and internet research, as well as visits to nature centers, animal shelters and museums.
One great way Charlie has learned about animals is in his classroom at school. These “classroom educators” have included a bearded dragon, a turtle, a betta fish, African clawed frogs, finches and gerbils. Students in Charlie’s class provide these pets with regularly scheduled feedings. They also learn about the animals’ anatomical features and how such animals live in the wild. Together, Charlie and I have learned about these animals’ nutritional, lighting and temperature requirements. We have implemented environmental enrichments and shared newly discovered information with his fellow students and his teachers. This summer, we are caring for Charlie’s classroom’s turtle, Zippy.
It’s important for teachers, parents and students to consider the following questions before acquiring a pet for the classroom:
How will classroom pets be obtained—from a shelter, pet store, student or teacher, or from the wild? What are the ramifications of each choice?
Where will animals go and who will provide care during breaks from school?
Is the classroom’s ambient temperature appropriate for the animals when school is not in session?
Who will finance food, habitat furnishings and veterinary care?
Are related zoonotic diseases—contagious diseases spread between animals and human—understood and are steps taken to minimize them?
Are allergen sensitivities adequately addressed?
Given the numerous demands on teachers, do they have enough time to maintain animal habitats?
Although there may be great educational benefit for students who have animals in the classroom, some animals may be better suited to this environment than others. Perhaps students and animals can optimally benefit from a mix of interactions with classroom pets, animals who visit occasionally and during field trips.
Have you or your children interacted with classroom pets? Please share your experiences in the comments.