Guest blog by ASPCA Volunteer Manager Julie Sonenberg, a mom of one daughter and two dogs in New York City.
Sharing is a tough concept for a toddler. Young children can be naturally selfish and might need to be taught about the importance of taking turns. It’s tough to understand that someone else can use a toy and that you’ll get it back at a later time, and that it’s not socially acceptable (or nice) to forcibly take someone else’s toy. Depending on the child, difficulty with this concept can result in crying, screaming, hitting, pushing or even biting.
Guarding valuable resources is a very natural behavior for dogs, which is why it is crucial for parents to foster good behavior from both kids and pets and to monitor all interactions between the two.
When our dog Dexter gets jealous of our other dog’s bone, it reminds me of my two-year-old daughter trying to grab the toy of a playmate—even if it’s a toy that was never hers to begin with. Both Dexter and my daughter, in their respective situations, feel as though they have a right to that toy and feel a sense of injustice that someone else is playing with it. Although our dogs are okay with adults taking their bone or being near them while they eat, we taught our daughter to leave the kitchen when they are eating and not to pet them when they are chewing on a bone. When she helps feed them, she puts down each of their bowls and walks out of the kitchen, saying to herself, “No be in the kitchen, doggies eating.”
It is extremely important for parents to realize that when a dog growls, shows his teeth or simply freezes, those are warning signs. Recognizing these signs of discomfort is crucial and immediate action should be taken to separate the dog and the child. All interactions should be monitored with particular caution and observation of the dog’s body language.
Do you have any pets? If so, please tell us about them.
Yes, we have four cats. Fluffles showed up near our house last year and we could not find his owner. He and Greystoke, one of our other cats, are best friends now. Zenzie is solid black and very opinionated. Momo is a Sphynx. A lady gave him to me while I was doing chemotherapy. He would lay with me and keep me warm when I felt bad. He would act crazy and make me laugh also.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy helping with any foster animals we may have. I also like to draw and do crafts.
Why did you decide to help animals in need with your Make-A-Wish wish?
I used my Wish to help animals because I love them so much. The whole point of the wish is to make the child happy. Every time my parents and I talked about what I should wish, this one made me the most happy. It is the right wish for me.
How can other kids your age make a difference for animals?
Kids my age can show their siblings and friends that it is a good thing to be kind to animals. They can tell a parent or teacher if they see animals being hurt. They can also ask their parents if they can volunteer at a local animal shelter.
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.
Here at the ASPCA, we’re always inspired when we see people taking a stand for animal welfare. We’re extra inspired, though, when some of our youngest supporters speak up for animals! Pennsylvania fourth- and third- grade animal enthusiasts Veronica J. and Kamryn V. recently teamed up to write a guide book for pet parents titled Hamster Fun Facts. We checked in with Veronica and Kamryn:
Do you have any pets? If so, please tell us about them.
Veronica: I have three hamsters. Midnight is a black Syrian hamster and he is nice, he does not bite. Oreo is a black and white Syrian hamster. Pipsqueak is a Chinese dwarf hamster and stays at my Grandpa’s house. He is small and timid. I also had another hamster named Pipsqueak, but he passed away a month ago.
Kamryn: We had a black Lab who passed away, and we'll be getting a new dog soon.
What inspired you to write Hamster Fun Facts?
Veronica: I love hamsters and needed a project for my media lab class at school. My teacher suggested I write a book on hamsters.
Kamryn: My love of animals inspired me to help write Hamster Fun Facts.
What is the book about?
Veronica: How to take care of hamsters and fun facts about hamsters. It is a great book for someone thinking about getting hamsters or who already has hamsters.
Kamryn: The book has lots of ideas about what you can do with hamsters, what types of toys and food you can give them and it has a lot of fun puzzles to solve.
Why do you think it’s important to be an animal advocate?
Veronica: I think it is important to be an animal advocate because they cannot represent themselves. I want to stop animal cruelty.
Kamryn: Some animals are endangered and need us to speak up for them.
How can other kids your age help animals?
Veronica: They can help animals by volunteering at an animal shelter or donating treats, dog food or toys, etc. to local animal shelters.
Kamryn: You can donate some allowance to a local animal shelter and write your own book.
Thanks for supporting animals, Veronica and Kamryn! We can’t wait to read your next book.