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Teaching Kids How to Care for Small Pets

Family Parenting

  • An adult should be the primary caretaker for a small pet, with children acting as helpers. Out-of-cage time should always be supervised by a grown-up.
  • Children who are 8 years and older are usually ready to handle a small pet with parental supervision.
  • Consider chores like cleaning the habitat once or twice a week as a means of teaching kids responsibility.
  • If you have a Guinea Pig or Rabbit, children can help groom it by gently brushing while parents watch.

Welcoming Home Your Small Pet

  • When you first arrive home with your small pet, take it out of his habitat for just a few minutes at a time so it can adjust to the new surroundings.
  • Have kids help by talking to small pets as they get accustomed to a new environment. Children can also offer bits of food and gently stroke your pet's head while it eats.
  • If your pet initially scurries away to hide, don't be concerned. It will learn to come out for hand feedings and will eventually learn to appreciate being handled.

Handling Your Small Pet

  • Make sure you and your kids always use two hands to pick up your pet.
  • Once you have a firm but gentle grip, lift your pet to your chest or place it on your lap so it feels safe and doesn't thrash around.
  • Make sure kids avoid putting a pet down on a tabletop or anywhere else where it could fall.
  • Supervise your children while they sit on the floor and hold the family pet in their laps. If you have younger kids, encourage them to pet the animal while you hold it in your lap.

Keep It Consistent

  • Kids should always approach the habitat quietly and speak softly, being gentle with the small pet as they handle it and offer treats.
  • Children can be role models for visiting friends, teaching others how to handle the family pet properly.
  • If everyone acts similarly around your small pet, it’ll be calmer and easier to handle.