6 - How-To Guides & Helpful Tips

Children and Pets: Learning to Play Together

Family reunions around Christmas time can bring some bittersweet moments. On one hand, everyone is usually joyful and happy, but on the other, stressful events and anxiety can come along. Now imagine how difficult it might be for our four-legged best friends to manage such intense feelings, plus an abrupt change in their routines. To make things even more challenging, kids will likely be around… And their excitement to play with the household pet will most certainly require some ninja maneuvers from both the pet and the pet parent. In this article, we’re going to help you make sure that children and pets get along!

Creating a safe space for your pet to be during the holidays is vital. But teaching all family members and friends, especially the younger ones, how to play and behave around your buddy is important as well.

Adopting a calm posture, respecting the cat or dog’s boundaries and knowing the basics on how to read their body language, is halfway to a healthy relationship. For some tips on how children should approach pets, check our posts on “Kids and Dogs: Keys to a Healthy Relationship” and “Kids and Cats: Keys to a Healthy Relationship”.

First, the child and the pet should start to build a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. Once that is achieved, they can cherish it and work on it with some delightful play sessions.

Children and Pets: playing with dogs

There are a few basics to follow when it comes to dogs. Here are some unrecommended activities which should be avoided:

  • Chasing the dog and vice-versa. This is especially true in puppies, who can easily get over excited and jump and bite the child. Chasing enhances the dog’s natural instinct to pursue moving things. Dogs usually become clumsy and might play harshly due to their enthusiasm, and more often than not end up unintentionally hurting the kid.
  • Grabbing the face or snout.
  • Climbing on the dog’s back.
  • Pulling the tail.
  • Putting the fingers inside the ears.

Dogs love interacting with people, but kids can sometimes be a nuisance. Here are some safe and fun activities to make things smoother:

– Play hide and seek

The child can calmly hide around the house or yard and call the dog. To avoid the dog’s excitement when finding the child, suggest that the kid throws treats on the floor once the dog gets to them. Having a spoon with a bit of peanut butter for the dog to lick is also a valid option, and it can work better for younger kids.

– Teach new tricks

A basic and easy one is to have 3 plastic cups turned upside down and to hide a treat under one of the cups so that the dog can find it. Once the dog picks the correct cup, say “well done” and give them the found treat.

– Play with soap bubbles

Homemade recipes using dog shampoo are usually safe, so go for it! Set a ground rule, just to make things easier for your dog: no screaming and yelling should be allowed.

Children and Pets: playing with cats

When it comes to our tiny tigers, the story is different. The majority of them avoid human interaction, and the ones who can easily get along with people, usually freak out around kids. 

Nevertheless, sometimes the household cat is brave enough to share the same room with a child. When that happens, it’s a great idea to encourage them to spend quality time together with no direct contact involved. Here are some ideas:

– Toy time

Allow the child to be the dispenser of toys and treats for your cat. Let them pick out the toy and give it to the cat. Wand toys and toys on strings will give kids a chance to play with the cat, while allowing the cat to keep their distance and get used to the environment.

Most felines love balls, because their movement mimics a prey. Teaching your cat to play fetch is also a possibility, but this does require a level of patience from all parties involved… As most cats will catch but not return a tossed toy.

Treat balls are another great toy. These are not very interactive for kids, but your cat will have a blast and their hilarious reactions will amuse everyone around the house.

– Make an obstacle course

Cats love to climb and explore their surroundings, so why not have the kids create an obstacle course for your feline? Look around the house for objects your cats can climb on or walk through, like boxes, laundry baskets, stacks of books, and so on. Once the child has set the course, have them walk the cat through the obstacles, using their favorite toy or a treat.

After your cat has mastered the course or grown bored with it, there’s always the chance to switch things  up… For example, by moving the objects around to create an entirely new challenge.

– High tech

If children are too much into vídeo games, computers and other technology, playing with cat toys can get boring fast. Luckily, there are a variety of apps and games made for tablets, smartphones and computers that can engage them both.

– Make music

Challenge the children to find out whether your cat has a musician’s ear or not. If you have an instrument around, like a guitar, a keyboard or perhaps a xylophone, then it’s time to give it a try and play. Slowly introduce your cat to the instrument, and ask the kids not to make too much noise. If your cat doesn’t get afraid and actually shows interest in the activity, then that’s a good way to keep everyone busy.

Conclusion

Learning how to play with our best friends in an amicable and respectful way will enhance a healthy human-pet relationship. Adults and pet parents have a vital role in this, as they are the ones best equipped to guide kids through this bonding journey. Maven’s vets also have some tricks up their sleeves, in case you need some extra help with the relationship between children and pets!


Maven is all about proactive pet care. It tracks your dog or cat’s health and well-being 24/7, while the Maven Vet Team continuously analyzes their data and behavioral patterns to give you tailored insights that effectively improve your pet’s life, and ultimately, their happiness.  Get early access now at www.maven.pet

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