Though certain challenges may arise when you raise kids and pets together, our experts offer solutions that’ll keep the whole family happy together.
Challenges: Your child doesn’t seem to care about animals as much as you do.
Solutions: Give it time. If you try to force the issue it will probably take even longer for your child to develop an affinity toward animals. If you’re providing your child opportunities for positive experiences with animals, they will most likely grow up appreciating animals—maybe even more than you do. If they don’t, as long as your child is not interacting inappropriately or maliciously with animals. it’s important to accept that difference.
Challenges: You idealize or have unrealistic expectations about the role a pet could play in your child’s life.
Solutions: There are a great many benefits to growing up with animals, but it’s important to know that animals are not a solution for all the trials and tribulations of childhood. Your child may not turn to animals for comfort or company. Keeping this in mind will help ground your expectations.
Challenges: Your child appears to resent the time and attention that you give to your pet, especially if you spend time on pet-centered activities that your child doesn’t want to participate in.
Solutions: This is an age-old parent challenge—making time for yourself and others who are important to you in addition to your children. It’s important to indicate, in every possible way, that your pet is a member of the family and that each member of the family gets his or her fair share of attention. Spend one-on-one time with your child in addition to any time you may spend with your pet and child together, and be sure this is purely fun time, not chores or errands. Assure your child that you love him or her, and that spending time with your pet doesn’t take away from that.
Challenges: The family pet is showing signs of stress, including separation anxiety, chewing on or scratching furniture and going to the bathroom in inappropriate places.
- Make your pet's daily schedule as predictable as possible. Feeding, walking, play and rest times should be consistent from day to day.
- Set aside 20 minutes a day for uninterrupted together time with your pet. Do this at the same time each day and include exercise, which will burn off extra energy and relax the both of you.
- Provide lots of safe, fun things for your pet to do on her own. Dogs usually like to chew, so stuff a Kong with dog food or healthy snacks. Kongs can be prepared and then frozen ahead of time as a time-saver. Cats like to explore, so leave empty cardboard boxes out or open closet doors or drawers for her to investigate (do make sure the environment is safe, and that the drawers are stable and doors won’t shut on her). And catnip toys are often appreciated.
- Rotate your pet’s toys, exchanging them every few days so they stay interesting.
Challenges: You and your partner feel differently about the family pet—i.e. one of you may be afraid, or you may have different ideas about the pet’s role in the family.
Solutions: In an ideal situation, you’ll have the luxury of working these differences out before bringing a pet into the family. If a pet is already a member of the family, these differences can still be addressed. Together with your partner, and perhaps with the aid of a psychologist or other relationship counselor, you can determine how to make your life with your pet work for both of you.
Challenges: Your child wants a pet, but you don’t.
Solutions: It’s important to make a realistic decision about whether or not you can bring a pet into your family. Read up on the time and care that different animals require so that you can make an informed decision about what kind of pet you might adopt. If you can’t, be truthful with your child. Explain why you can’t have a pet right now. Remember that you will be the animal’s primary caretaker. While kids should be able to help, they won’t be able to do it all and they’ll need you to set the example. If you’re not able to take on the responsibility, it won’t be fair to your child or to the animal you adopt.