Animals offer so many benefits to a family structure – from encouraging exercise and outdoor activities, to teaching kids responsibility and routine. But what happens when your fuzzy bundle of joy becomes a hassle, tries to bite, or prefers to be alone instead of in the midst of activity?
It’s important when introducing a pet into the family we consider the needs of the family AND of the pet. Is a cat or a dog an ideal companion for your family? Does your space allow for a large dog or small dog? A high energy dog for running outside, or more docile for a relaxed lifestyle? Long haired pet or short haired? What type of disposition? How will they be around kids? These are all great questions, and your veterinary professional can help you in your search for the ideal match.
Most children are in LOVE and fascinated with their pets! They often want to interact with them constantly. Their human-animal bond is often unbreakable. It builds trust, reduces stress, and creates loyalty that is without explanation. We must, however, consider, that when creating these bonds, we ensure the needs of the pet are met as well, as they often do not communicate “effectively” with us until it is too late. In other words, animals tend to drop subtle cues when they are uncomfortable, ones that we are not even aware of. You can protect your pet and child by knowing what these signs are and by providing “child free” zones that allow the pet to retreat to a safe space when they need to.
So what should we be watching for when a dog or cat is starting to become uncomfortable or feel threatened?
Tail tucked between the legs
Ears are back and down
Yawning, licking and/or chewing
Mouth and lips tightly closed
Attempts to move away from the space
Back slightly hunched
Flicking of the tail back and forth quickly
Excessive facial bunting
Arched spine, OR hunched low to the ground
Swatting or batting
A dog that tries to growl and bite, or a cat that tries to hiss, scratch, or bite means that we have already missed the subtle signs that we should’ve clued in to. Pets and children need supervision when they are together so that we can recognize these signs early and intervene when the animal has had enough. Even the happiest of pets may surprise you with an unexpected hiss or growl.
As a rule, always ensure an animal has a safe space to retreat to where they can be alone at any given time. Teach your child the signs to watch for when a cat or dog has had enough. Encourage short periods of interaction instead of long sessions. Ensure the pet’s environment is enriched, and that they get enough mental stimulation and physical activity on a daily basis.
For more information on animal behaviour, animal interactions, or environmental enrichment for your pet, contact your Veterinarian or Veterinary Professional.
Animal Care Centre
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. (2014). Feline Behavioral Problems: Aggression. Retrieved July 27, 2017 from http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/Health_Information/brochure_aggression.cfm
Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Basic Indoor Cat Needs. Retrieved July 27, 2017 from https://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats/basic-indoor-cat-needs
CNW. (June 6, 2016). Dog Bite Prevention: What Every Family Needs to Know. [News Release]. Retrieved from http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/dog-bite-prevention-what-every-family-needs-to-know-581941561.html