All in the Family: a closer look at pets and kids

Posted by Dr. Nina Mantione on Jul 16 2012

As a mom to four children and several cats and dogs, I thought it would be fun to share some experiences I have had over the years.

For parents of new babies
Dogs will not bark, ever, until your baby has finally fallen asleep after three hours of crying. Then your dog will let loose with a hundred decibel barking spree just as you are about to lay the baby in the crib. At which point the baby will startle awake and your dog will fall back to sleep.

Just as cats are fascinated by us reading the paper or working on the computer, they are also completely intrigued by the idea of feeding or nursing a baby. My cats would routinely tiptoe across my nursing babies while I tried to shoo them away by making mean and scary faces at them so as not to disturb the baby. This would unfailingly be met with a feline look that said, “Bug off – I’m busy here!"

For parents of toddlers
If your child goes through a biting phase (as one of mine did), the dog is absolutely not safe. My dog earned a guaranteed sainthood the day my one of my daughters bit him on his big hound nose when she was 2 years old. I was nursing her little sister and I heard him yelp. When I asked her what happened she said, “I bited his nose.” The dog in question looked at me with a martyred look and I assured him that an extra cookie was definitely in his future. Also, the mystery of what lies under the dog’s tail is one that toddlers may investigate on a daily basis, so hand washing is imperative.

For the parents of older children
Asking a child to clean the kitty litter will immediately inspire them to get right on their homework or saxophone practice and help to jog their memory about a very important test they must study for immediately.

Asking a child to pick up poop in the yard will have the same effect. My eleven year old daughter will only pick up poop under great duress and will act as if I’ve asked her to clean a sewage plant with her toothbrush.
Dogs never get tired of greeting the school bus. The vigil for my kids’ bus starts about a half hour before its arrival and consists of my dogs waiting with their faces pressed against the front windows in a state of anticipation typical of a teenage girl at a Justin Beiber concert. The arrival of the kids provokes much wailing and dancing for joy - each and every day

My cats really like bedtime stories. Every evening at bedtime my cats run to my daughter’s bedroom for book reading. My youngest daughter has observed that they particularly enjoy books with drawings of cats or ones in which cats are the heroes. She says that these books make them happy. She warns them if a book features a dog, in case they would like to skip it for the evening

I am convinced that having pets has made my children more responsible, compassionate and empathetic. My pets are convinced that having children has given them freer access to junk food and extra tummy rubs.