'If your child is getting a pet for Christmas, you need to teach them to look after it.'

Owning and taking care of a pet can help your kids learn about compassion and responsibility, but not if you end up doing all of the dirty work.

Kids will make all kinds of promises when they are begging you to buy them a pet of their own.

But what can you do to instil that responsibility and ensure you’re not left with all the pet care duties?

1. Educate your children on the importance of looking after their pet.

If you want your kids to look after their pets, you need to teach them about WHY it’s important to care of them. Help them to recognise the consequences of not taking care of their pet.

For example, let them know that failing to clean out the rabbit’s cage will make them sick. Bring your children along to vet and grooming appointments so that they can take an active interest and learn about your pet with you. Show your kids simple ways in which they can improve their pet’s health, such as feeding their cat a high-quality diet, or taking the dog for long walks so it stays fit and healthy.

Help them learn WHY pets need to be cared for. Photo by Veronika Homchis on Unsplash

2. Set age-appropriate tasks for your kids.

There are many different tasks involved in taking care of a pet and your children might not be ready for all of them. Give your kids age-appropriate jobs that will keep them and your pet safe. Kids who are younger than seven shouldn’t be left unsupervised around pets but can be given jobs to help with.

Ask them to assist you with putting food and water out, or making sure pet toys are put away. Teenagers can help out much more with things like walking the dog, grooming the cat and cleaning up after the animals!

3. Create a pet care chart.

We all live busy lives so a bit of organisation can be useful. Assist your children to integrate their pet-related responsibilities into their daily routines so that caring for the family pet becomes an everyday habit, not a chore. Let them have a say as to what they want to be responsible for, rather than assigning tasks.

An easy way to keep track of pet care is to create a chart with the tasks and tick them off or put a sticker when they are done.

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4. Be a good example.

Kids tend to learn by example, and they love to be like you.

Show your kids how to be kind and gentle with animals and how to treat them with love and respect and they’ll be looking after them with the same attitude in no time.

With pet wellbeing an important issue for all the family, Purina One has partnered with Animal Welfare League Australia to launch Novempurr – an initiative raising awareness of cat health and wellbeing. They’re calling on cat owners to check-in on their cat’s health and learn what to look for in the six visible signs of cat health. Check out the website for more information.