Raising the Next Generation of Animal Lovers: Teaching Children to Care for Animals from an Early Age

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 2:00pm
Black and white bunny playing with baby

Guest blog by Lauren Martin, a proud mom of 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 has taught animal law at St. John’s University School of Law.

After 11 months of nothing but babbling, one winter day my son looked at me and said, “Cat!”  Not only was I thrilled to hear my son’s first word. but I was also proud of the word that he picked.  Since my childhood, I have always valued animals and have treated them with dignity and respect.  I have worked to ensure the humane treatment of animals throughout my adult life, ultimately working as an attorney at the ASPCA.  When I learned that I was going to have a child, I knew that I wanted to instill that same love and respect for animals in my child that I hold so dear.

My son came home from the hospital to find that he had four “brothers and sisters” in the form of three loving cats and one adorable bunny.  I wanted a love for animals to be a core part of my son’s values from the very beginning.  From the start, I carefully introduced him to my animals and taught him to be gentle.  I taught him not to pull the cats’ tails or ears, and I taught him not to chase our bunny (bunnies are at the bottom of the food chain, so being chased conjures some fearful thoughts!).  But above all, I have tried to teach my son that animals matter.  Together, we greet all of our animals each morning and give them love and attention each day.  When my son and I take walks in our neighborhood, we are sure to give attention to all of the friendly dogs who are out taking walks, and in fact, my son often sits at our front window calling for Coco, our neighbors’ sweet Shih Tzu.

I believe that kindness to animals will never be something that my son needs to be taught as he gets older.  It will be a core part of who he is as he journeys through his life, and I hope that the world will be a bit more humane because of him.

baby and cat

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Dresia Vaughn

I think it's very important to teach espeically young children about animals, how to love them, not mistreat them. When a child learns to love animals, he will have love for his fellowman as they grow into adulthood. When loving animals, you learn compassion because animals teach you that, you learn to respect, because animals teach you that, you learn to love, give, because again animals teach you that, and you learn to forgive, because they forgive us no matter how we treat them. A dog is a man's best friend, and we should be theirs for life.

Dresia Vaughn

Animals are born with a special sense, one that was given to man from God, so that we know true love because our animals score high on love for us, more than we love each other. They teach us a lot. They feel our emotions, our saddness, our happiness, our pain, they are right there by our side in all areas I just mentioned. Though they cannot talk like people, they talk through body language, through their big smiles with their tongues sticking out when they are so happy to see us, and they carry that smile through out your home. Animals are also healers, they are truly a gift from God. A gift I will always cherish and love for eternity.

Kimberley Schmidt

Not only does this teach a child to treat an animal right it teaches a child compassion and to love but unfortunately parental lessons and guidance is being overlooked-opportunities to teach our young is too often ignored due to parents placing too much importance on things rather than living breathing beings. So sad the world we live in whereas animals are mistreated, tortured, abused and dumped when "we no longer have time" or whatever bs people come up with to justify this behavior

Mary

I wholeheartedly agree. Children who care for animals become caring, responsible adults. I think it runs in families -- every one of us is an animal lover in my family. Cousins, aunts, uncles... everyone! We may not have much in common, but we do have our pets. It's amazing. Animals will give solace to a lonely or sick child, and is always waiting for them to come home from school. I think my son going away to college was the worst day in my dog's life. But you should see her when he comes home! It's such a strong bond.

Gail

Providing children are taught from a young age to love animals, they will carry that forward for the rest of their lives and will include their fellow humans as well. Both our parents taught us love and respect for animals and the lessons stuck. Today, I work at our local no-kill shelter as a Feline Adoption Rep. It's truly a blessing our parents bestowed upon us. I would urge all parents to do the same for their children. The world would be a much better place.

kquen

I grew up loving all animals. I protested at age 3, my dad drowning a handful of pink baby rats he found in the basement. By age 6 we had moved to a remote 20 acre farm. Which, a one time or another, we had at least two of almost every kind of farm animal there is, plus, many dogs. cats, riding horses, hamsters, etc. But years later, as much as I tried to instill that same love of animals into my own two sons, neither of them took after me in that respect. Their father, couldn't have cared less about any animal. And sadly, they're more like him in that respect. Single people, choice your mate wisely!

Denise Bartel

My son is grown now. We lived with many species and colors through the years. It was important to me that he know all the different love. He still feels the love and we were lucky to have the best dogs and lizards and birds and rats ever. You see reptile love is very different than mammal love, but not less, just different. I am very proud to have been Ed's mom then, and now. He is a wonderful man who has a huge capacity for love and a full understanding of different species and plants.

Hilary

My daughter has 2 cats, a turtle and a snail. She has taught her sons how to handle them.The boys are 14 and 12 . They give me the little baby kitten to hold when i come to visit. I have a cat too. I think that training children to be gentle with their pets is absolutely necessary. I taught them that every living thing pet will give you love if you treat them right.

Marilou Ramos

I salute you Lauren Martin.God bless you and your family.thank you for loving your 3 cats and bunny especially loving your children and hubby.you are such a good and loving person.have a good heart.
Marilou

Mychael Meadows

I grew up in a house where the dogs lived in the basement and wallowed in their own feces. My dad kicked and beat our animals and that's what I learned to do. At 15, of all dogs to get, I was given a pit-bull by my sister. It was a disaster. Fist thrown as hard as I could and bite intense enough to break the skin was an everyday occurrence. It wasn't that I didn't love Harley I just didn't know how to show it. At 19 a girl entered my life that turned my perspective of love up side down. I never hit her. Though I improved I was still heavy hand with my pets. When I was 32 I was blessed with our daughter. Pets are a big part of her life because she's an only child. I've spanked her twice on the butt in 14 years. In addition to the love that girl I married taught me I got an even more grand perspective on love. My daughter and I volunteered at the local animal shelter when we were in an apartment that didn't allow dogs. I didn't mistreat any of the animals there. Now we have a house and a rescued a greyhound from Florida. I've never spanked Rocket (greyhounds get so freaked out in the face of violence). I am now 46 and grateful for the way things turned out. It could have been so much worse but my girls saved me and now I am able to save Rocket, two cats, and a hamster. I dedicate an hour a day to Rocket and we share a wonderful love. The hamster gets a half hour. The point is to raise your children to appropriate and display a good love from the beginning as is being done with my daughter. I'm glad she never saw the ugly side of me. Not everyone can say the same. I am so grateful. Thank you for letting me share.