Many children are naturally drawn to animals from an early age. Introducing a pet not only teaches your child about how to care for something, but also teaches him about responsibility, too.
• One of the most important things to remember is that your child will not be au fait with handling an animal. Toddlers are too young to care for pets, often preferring to pull their ears and tails!
• Show your child how to hold a puppy or kitten properly and teach him not to squeeze it, especially round the neck.
• If an animal feels threatened, its natural instinct is to protect itself, often with a nip or growl. Talk about what happened to cause the pet to bite to ensure that this doesn't happen again. Explain that animals have feelings, too.
• Preschool children are old enough to learn the responsibility of caring for a pet, but only with the parent assuming a primary role in the animal's care.
• Lead by example and show your child how to care for the pet, then gradually let your child take over in stages; play, feeding, then even cleaning out the hutch or goldfish bowl. But always keep a close supervisory eye.
• Guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits make excellent first pets. They are easy to look after and very affectionate in return. Get them as babies as this will get them used to human handling from an early age.
• Your child should always wash his hands after handling his pet and shouldn't allow it to lick his face.
• Remember, the more love you give your pet, the more it will give in return.
Lifeskills: Washing hands