Keri Matthews, a mom of two, has worked in the ASPCA’s licensing department for more than five years. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Tom, her children, Gabriella and Tommy, and their Greyhound, Clyde.
We know our kids love our dog Clyde, and with Valentine’s Day on the way, we recently asked our daughter Gabriella what she loves best about having Clyde as our pet. Here’s what we heard:
“He plays with me.” This was her first response and the most touching. It showed us that she really does think of him as a friend—and that their bond is strong.
“I like to give him treats.” If Clyde could talk, this would be at the top of his list as well.
“Brushing him is fun.” Clyde loves to get brushed and Gabriella takes this job very seriously. Her toy hairdryer often makes an appearance.
“Going for walks.” We love to take Clyde for walks—Tommy laughs at Clyde walking most of the time, and Gabriella likes to help us put Clyde’s coat on.
In our house, love is having your dog on his bed next to you while you play. And for Clyde, love is spending his later years with the little people around him, weaving him into everything they do.
We can’t wait until our son Tommy is older, so he’ll be able to tell us what he loves best about Clyde, too. We will probably hear similar answers to Gabriella’s. And to us, that means we are teaching our kids to love and respect our animal friends. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Caroline Golon is a busy mom of two young girls and two rascally Persian rescue cats living in Columbus, Ohio. She’s passionate about animal welfare and creating happy households with both kids and pets. She’s a regular contributor toVetstreet.comand other pet-centric sites. You can read more about Caroline’s adventures with kids and pets at her site,Crayons and Collars.
Kids can be nuts. Add some pets to the mix and the craziness increases exponentially.
Aside from the pet hair and unidentifiable foodstuffs, random stickers and toothpaste stuck to your pants, here are a few telltale signs you’re living with a house of pets and kids:
Nose prints and handprints just below eye level You know how it looks like someone finger-painted clear hair gel on the glass of your windows and front door up to about three feet high, where it abruptly stops? Right. Somebody(ies) or something(s) have frequently had their greasy fingers/paws/noses up against that glass.
The good news is that since it’s below your eye level, you can conveniently ignore it…for a while.
Smelliest garbage can on the block Your trash guys hate you, especially in the summer. Your garbage can has little bags full of litter box scoops or poop-scoop contents. Even if you have small animals, the garbage is often full of shavings, dirty newspapers, puppy pads, cage liners and more. Add a few dirty diapers to the mix and it’s a malodorous recipe. You probably find yourself avoiding putting anything else in the trash and when you do, you hold your nose, throw the trash into the can and run.
An impeccably clean floor It’s a fact: kids are messy, messy eaters. But households with a resident dog typically have freakishly clean floors. The furry vacuum cleaner is better than the most expensive machine on the market. It’s ironic that the kids and pets destroy everything else in the home--but the floor? Pristine.
A less than perfect yard Grass won’t grow in your backyard? You’re not alone. Between the digging, running, jumping, sliding, roughhousing, football games, grass-killing sandboxes and baby pools, you just aren’t going to have a lovely turf. Get used to the bald spots and dog poop land mines and remember you’re making memories. Plus, you’ll have less grass to mow. Yay!
Ready or not, the holidays are here! Last week, my interfaith family kicked off Hanukkah, and this week we will dive into the joys of Christmas. Our home is filled with the smells of two wonderful traditions.
Regardless of the nature of your holiday plans and celebrations, there is one important detail that you cannot overlook: keeping your pets safe and happy with your guests.
The holidays are a very stressful time for pets, especially when young children are around. Holiday treats, loud noises and added excitement can present problems for our furry friends. An enthusiastic child mixed with a stressed pet is not always a good combination.
Below are three tips to keep the joy in your holiday season as you entertain young children:
2. Don’t be afraid to speak up: As a pet parent, you have a responsibility to keep your pet and those around your pet safe. If a young houseguest is negatively interacting with your pet, you should firmly and politely address the problem with the child and his or her parent. If the behavior continues, it may be best to remove your pet from the room.
3. Have an action plan: Before hosting guests this holiday season, it’s important to create a safety contingency plan. Prepare a safe, quiet room in your home where your pet can retreat—this room is a guest-free zone. Baby gates also help keep the peace. If you choose to take your pets outdoors, ensure that they do not remain outside for long periods of time. If the weather is too cold or uncomfortable for you, it’s not suitable for your pets, either.
Caroline Golon is a busy mom of two young girls and two rascally Persian rescue cats living in Columbus, Ohio. She’s passionate about animal welfare and creating happy households with both kids and pets. She’s a regular contributor to Vetstreet.com and other pet-centric sites. You can read more about Caroline’s adventures with kids and pets at her site, Crayons and Collars.
When couples who once doted on their pets become parents to human beings, the pets may get shuffled lower on the priority list. It doesn’t mean they’re loved any less, but parenting humans is tough work—it can be exhausting and all-consuming.
Yet I love my cats even more now that I have two human children. Here’s why:
They offer quiet companionship. When both of my daughters were infants and I awoke in the dead of night to feed them, I was never alone. One or both of my sweet cats would wander into the room to see what was happening, often hopping up on the chair with me as I rocked the baby back to sleep. I was exhausted, sometimes near tears, but my feline boys were always there with me.
They have never-ending patience. My cats have accepted their new human companions, who are now three and six years old. They’ve watched patiently as the girls grabbed at them as babies, staggered toward them as new walkers, ran after them as toddlers and tried to carry them around as preschoolers. Of course, through the years, we’ve always supervised interactions and made sure neither the cats nor the kids were in danger. The cats tolerated changes and unpredictability, and they still want to be with us—snuggled on the couch, on the back of the chair during story time and even sometimes in one of the girl’s laps. It makes my heart swell that they give such unconditional love.
They’re easy to care for. Compared to little humans, cats are easy to care for. Popping open cans of cat food and scooping the litter box is nothing compared to trying to devise healthy meals for a picky preschooler, or constantly wiping bottoms.
They teach valuable lessons. My cats taught my daughters at an early age to be gentle. The girls have learned to move slowly around animals and to respect their space. I see this when my kids politely ask to pet strange dogs or carefully approach other peoples’ cats when we’re visiting.
They’re still my babies. As my kids grow and become more independent, they don’t always want to be picked up or cuddled. They have their own lives, and I’m learning to adjust to that part of parenthood. But my cats? They’re still my babies. They still need me and want to be around me as much as possible. Everything changes so quickly but through everything, they’ve remained the same sweet, loving felines they’ve always been. And I love them more each day because of that.
Guest post by Dana Wilkosz of KIWI magazine. The views expressed in this post are not necessarily those of the ASPCA.
I’ve been an allergy-sufferer for almost my entire life. Dogs, dust mites, grass—you name it, I’m probably allergic to it. (As my allergist put it to me at the tender age of five: “You probably shouldn’t have any animals in the house…But you can still hug the trees!” I was devastated.) So I can relate to parents who may be hesitant to introduce a pet to their young child—especially if they themselves have ever suffered from being around animals (itchy eyes, itchy nose, itchy throat—so much itching.)
However, you may want to think twice before deciding against four-legged companions completely. A recent study suggests that it is unlikely that being around a dog or a cat for most of the childhood years will increase a child’s chances of developing allergies, and early exposure could actually lower the risk.
Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit studied 565 18-year-olds who had been followed from birth. They found that teens who had cats during their first year of life had 50 percent less chance of developing pet allergies later, compared to babies born into cat-free homes. Boys who lived with a dog during the first year of life had about half the risk of developing allergies as compared to those without a dog in the house, though, oddly, this wasn’t true for girls—a fact that researchers were unable to explain.
In fact, being exposed to pets anytime after the first year of life seemed to have no effect on allergy risk at all, which, researchers feel indicates that a baby’s first year is a critical time when it comes to the possibility of a child developing pet allergies. The reason for this? Researchers believe it may lie in the “hygiene theory”—the idea that early exposure to certain environmental factors, like dust or animal dander, might trigger the immune system to develop a tolerance for common allergens, therefore reducing the likelihood of a child developing sensitivities.
Still, researchers are quick to point out that even though the study indicates that having pets early in life could help protect kids from allergies, this doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship—meaning you probably shouldn’t rush out to get a pet in the hopes that it’ll make your child immune to pet allergies. However, if you’re planning on getting a pet, it might be better to get one sooner rather than later.
Fortunately for me, my allergies have never been life threatening, and my mom agreed to keeping pets in the house so long as my symptoms didn’t get out of hand. To this day, I live quite happily with a cat of my own, and though I still take a pill everyday to help relieve some of that awful itching, I’m an animal lover and a pet owner, and I wouldn’t have grown up any other way.
What about you? Did you grow up with animals and allergies? Do you think exposing your child early in life to common allergens could prevent them from developing allergy symptoms later in life? Please share in the comments.