Children and Animals

Ask any SPCA what the main reasons are that people give when they hand over or “surrender” a pet. At the top of the list is probably “moving” but ranking amongst the most frequently given reasons must be the “child” or “pregnant” excuses. We are referring to admission forms with “pregnant – unwise to keep the pet” written on them or the fear that an animal may be a hygiene risk to a child or that an animal may react badly to a new arrival.

The good news is that in most cases, giving a pet away for these reasons is unnecessary

When you start a family, pets will remain faithful friends and companions – if they are given proper care and attention plus understanding. In fact, children who grow up with pets are far better equipped to learn about responsibility and respect for animals. But a bit of guidance along the route in showing them how to make the best of this friendship is always welcome.

Pregnant women can catch toxoplasmosis: – a disease that can be picked up from cat faeces or from eating raw or undercooked meat. Toxoplasmosis can cause foetal abnormalities. However basic precautions can protect women.

There really is no need to dispose of a cat due to its owner’s pregnancy

The best protection against all toxoplasmosis does not involve precautions relating to cats at all. Cook all meat thoroughly is the advice.

If you do have feline friends, then wear rubber gloves when handling the litter tray or when cleaning it out. It is perfectly safe for pregnant women to handle healthy cats. In any situation where a cat appears off-colour or sick, then seek veterinary advice immediately.

There are various old-wives-tales about cats and babies. Cats do not usually become jealous but we all know about curiosity and the cat. Also, cats are attracted to the warmth of a baby’s cot or sleeping area – so please ensure that a protective net is used whenever baby is put out in the garden or on the stoep. Even if you do not have a cat, neighbouring cats just might get curious.

There is no doubt that the arrival of a baby changes the whole focus of your life – and also it affects pets. Planning is required to ensure that pets are made to feel important still, to reduce any stress or frustration for them. Even if it means seeking help from a friend or family member, it is advisable to keep to the pet’s exercise and feeding routines before and after the baby arrives.

Dogs and cats will be curious if a baby or child arrives into the family. Introducing the new arrival to the animals gently is an excellent idea, especially as you will be there to step in if any untoward behaviour arises. It is also worth giving your animals a little bit of extra-special attention at a time like this, just to let them know you still care. Animals and children can be afraid of one another.

Here are some tips to help you help children and animals make friends

  • Warn children never to approach animals they do not know. Remind them always to ask permission from the owner or person with the animal before touching or stroking a dog.
  • Children should be taught to recognise the warning signs such as a dog growling or a cat swaying its tail and how to react.
  • Teach children that animals should never be teased or disturbed when they are eating or sleeping.
  • Teach children always to approach animals from the front. Point out that if they approach the dog or cat from the back and touch it (even with the owner’s permission), this could startle the animal as it will not have seen the child’s approach.
  • Make sure that your child is aware that carrying food around in front of an animal is unfair.
  • No matter how friendly the relationship between the child and the pet(s), ensure that the child is aware that he or she must not put his or her face close to the animal’s face or claws. A sudden noise, for example, may startle the animal and the animal’s reaction may harm the child unintentionally.
  • Point out to your children that high-pitched screams or sudden loud noises can easily startle some animals.
  • No matter how kind and trustworthy your pet may be, if a child is pulling its tail, poking a finger in its eye or putting fingers in the dog’s feeding dish, then the animal may lose patience and snap.
  • No matter that these instances may be the fault of the child, it is not worth putting any child at risk by leaving him or her alone with an animals.

Caring and responsible owners mean happy pets – help your children to enjoy the experience.