How to teach your kids to be nice to your pets

Getting children and pets to cohabitate can be a daunting task to say the least! My cat, Ailey (named after famous choreographer/dancer, Alvin Ailey), has been with me for nearly 14 years. She has been so sweet and loving towards both of our daughters. Now that our oldest girl is a full-blown toddler, I want to make sure my precious cat still feels the love and also feels comfortable in her own home. This has not been an easy feat. There are times whenever our little tot finds pleasure in screaming at Ailey and pulling on her tail, which is typical behavior for sure. But like with everything in life, children must be taught the proper way to interact with their pets. Here are my tips to help teach your child to respect the family pet(s):

1. Teach your children the four necessities that all living things must have in order to survive: food, water, air and space. Remind your children that these 4 things are what they have in common with their pet. Whenever your child shows disrespect to the pet, model empathy. For example, if your child tries to hide your dog's food, tell him/her, "How would you feel if we hid food from you? You need food to survive and so does our dog."

2. Give your child a toy pet and put him/her in charge of caring for it. You can also use this toy pet to act out different scenarios with your child to prepare him/her for real life encounters with the family pet. This is especially helpful when introducing and welcoming a family pet into your home.

3. Read a book about pets/animals. Some examples are "Oh the Pets You Can Get: All About Our Animal Friends," written by Tish Rabe and "Rabbits: A Children's Book About Rabbits and Keeping Them As Pets" by Samantha Joyce.

4. Sing songs and watch videos about pets. You can find plenty of children's songs on this topic on You Tube

5. Visit a pet store or the zoo. This will give your child an opportunity to witness how other people treat animals. In addition, they will learn fun facts about the countless animals that exist through this hands-on experience.

I most certainly hope this post was helpful to you! Please share any experiences (fun, funny, terrifying, etc.) you've had with your children and family pets! :)