By Mickey Zeldes
I’ve noticed that people with young children often come in looking for puppies or kittens. Their reasoning is that they want the children and the animals to grow up together. That’s a sweet thought, but it often backfires. Puppies and kittens are just sharp claws and teeth covered in cute fur! They are squirmy and need 24/7 supervision – just like the children do! So parental supervision is often divided and guess who is on the short end of that stick? Who has the time to do puppy classes and work on obedience when you have a toddler to potty-train?
Kittens under about 4 months old aren’t very good at retracting their claws. I’ve had foster kittens scale up my legs while I’m standing at the counter and, yep, that hurts! If you’re not prepared for it the natural reaction is to either jump or knock the animal off. Either way you could end up with an injured kitten. It’s hard to control natural reactions! Little hands sometimes squeeze too hard or grab fur and hurt the animal. Puppies not realizing how sharp their teeth are, may react with a nip. Now you have a crying child who is afraid of the pup.
Small puppies are fragile and unlike cats, don’t always land on their feet if dropped accidentally as they squirm while being held. And children can’t resist picking up little animals. They often think of them like little dolls. Of course, parents say that they will supervise interactions and for the most part they do. But the phone rings or they run to the bathroom and in the blink of an eye, an accident happens. We had one young Chihuahua returned when he jumped from the truck (really?) and broke both front legs; and a kitten brought back when it had ingested a long string and needed an expensive surgery to remove it.
Sure accidents happen. They are not all preventable (or we would prevent them, right?), that’s for sure. But we really want to make people aware of the issues and have them realistically look at what they can do and what they can take on. The truth is a two or three-year-old child is not going to remember the first couple of months with a kitten or puppy anyway. So going with a slightly older pup or kitten, (or a mellow, already trained adult dog or cat) might be in everyone’s best interest.
Some people say that adopting an animal is harder than adopting a child but we just want both you and the animal to be safe and happy. Some parents can manage supervising young children and raise a well-socialized, nicely behaved dog at the same time, but many realize they are in over their heads and sadly, instead of bringing the pup back they put them out in the backyard. I’m guessing they think they will get around to training them – later. But the time never comes and the dog grows up without learning good house manners or getting the training and socializing that is so critical when they are young. You can never get that critical period back and early exposure to lots of different stimulations is so important for a stable, friendly dog.
Sorry if we sound like a bunch of overprotective mothers! We will continue to ask lots of questions and try to dissuade parents of young children from getting young puppies and kittens since we feel strongly that the two don’t really make a good mix. We are happy to find a well adjusted older pup, (or kitten), if you are interested in adding one to your family. Come in and fill out an adoption profile for our “want” file and we’ll work together to find a good match for you!
No More Lost Pets – free microchips and pet ID tags for residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati City. Stop by the shelter during our open hours with your pet to get one! The shelter is open Wed 1-6:30 p.m., Thurs.-Fri-Sat 1-5:30 p.m. and Sun 1-4:30 p.m.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.