Nearly always, pets are extraordinarily beloved and cherished by everyone in the family. Everyone wants to snuggle, play with, and hang out with the fluffy, furry, and adorable animals we bring into our homes. We usually assume that adults simply have common sense when it comes to handling animals, but this isn’t always the case — and more than anything, how anyone interacts to an animal mostly comes from learned behaviors.

The truth is, our youngest members of the family often need guidance, instruction, and encouragement when it comes to animal interactions. The curiosity that young kids have is amazing, but can be less so when they start grabbing, hitting, or dragging the family pets. More often than not, this does come from wanting to figure out what Rover or Fido is, exactly, but this can lead to some negative consequences.

Galaxy Diagnostics is known for providing Bartonella testing, along with other forms of pathogen testing, but in today’s blog, we’re going to provide some tips on how you can teach children the best practices for safe handling and interaction with pets. Learn more in our blog, and order your testing kits from Galaxy Diagnostics to get the health-related answers you’re looking for.

Provide foreshadowing.

If your child is old enough (toddler age and older) to understand things like being gentle and waiting/having patience in general, they’re probably ready to interact with the pet. Give them some reminders, foreshadow the event by telling them what the dog or cat might do, and emphasize how we never want to hurt animals.

A great way to do this is by reading some books from the library, and having subsequent conversations about interacting with animals. Reference any times that your young one has gotten injured, and talk about how that didn’t feel good — then, use this to relate back to making sure we don’t hurt animals, and show them some respect. Another great form of foreshadowing? Look at wildlife outside! Everything from insects to rabbits to deer are a way to continue building a child’s knowledge base for how to interact with animals.

Begin with a slow introduction.

No matter when your family gets a pet, the first time a child interacts with an animal of any kind is a situation that will require a lot of guidance. Remember that pets might be just as curious (or afraid) of a child as the other way around, so a nice, slow, introduction is a great way to facilitate exploration, in a safe manner.

At this point, the foreshadowing that you’ve done with your child builds a great base. Talk to them about how sometimes animals are scared, and need some space. Relay how important it is to let animals come to them, and how building up a friendship takes some time.

If you’re just bringing a pet into the home for the first time, make sure the pet is feeling comfortable as well, and that they have plenty of space and time to become familiar with their new environment. Simply practicing patience and respect is a great way to establish some new family dynamics that are at play.

Demonstrate proper handling.

Show your kid(s) the best ways to physically interact with a pet, and have them practice. Toddlers might be super curious and super inclined to grab your cat’s tail, but being preventative in demonstrating proper handling can help curb those internal motivations. Start by petting an animal, talking to your child about how to do it, as well as show where are good places to pet. For holding animals, that might take a little more instruction, but just remember that this is brand new territory for your child (and possibly for your pet as well).

Have children help in the chores and responsibilities.

When kids are responsible or help take care of the family pets, they grow in their understanding of how to interact with them. It goes to show that, with anything in life, practice is absolutely key. A child that’s removed or unattached to pets is not going to be as well-versed in proper animal techniques; plus, the animal won’t be as familiar with the child either. This could lead to hostile situations in the future.

Talk about sanitation.

For as much as we love our animals, they can transmit diseases to us, and we need to be careful when interacting with them. It’s not their fault, but diseases such as Bartonellosis or cat-scratch disease (CSD) can be transferred from animal to human. Teach your child to wash their hands after interacting with animals, or before touching their face or eating — and definitely have them wash their hands after using the pooper scooper! Common practices, such as not letting your dog excessively lick you, should also be encouraged.

The biggest thing to keep in mind with pets is that, while the threat of disease does exist, implementing the best handling practices can make a huge difference in overall safety of your (human) family members. Bartonellosis, CSD, and other diseases can come from scratches, bites, and feces — but establishing healthy relationships with pets and healthy practices has a positive impact in more ways than one.

In the event that you do think that you may be suffering from Bartonellosis, CSD, or another zoonotic disease, our Bartonella testing can provide you with answers. Find out about ordering tests online, and get your test kit today.