Here at Mission Ridge Animal Hospital, we frequently hear that “my old dog or my old cat doesn’t like the kids.” A lot of the time these people are considering rehoming or euthanizing their long term family member because they are anxious about the things that happen at home…
As pets age they tend to change in their behaviours as well their physical abilities, this is no different than people. So why is it that many people feel that old pets and young children don’t mix?
Older pets have less tolerance for rambunctious kids who run and scream around the house, some of this is related to the cat or dog not being able to move out of the way as fast because they may be painful or arthritic. Also we may see pets that are deaf or blind that can’t tell that the kids are barreling down the hall and thus can’t avoid a potentially painful situation. When a pet can’t avoid a painful or scary situation they will react as a pet of any age may by trying to protect themselves which in most situations comes in the form of a bite and or scratch. Just think about how you feel when you are scared or something hurts you, your natural reaction is to either run or fight! With animals this reaction is much more prominent in people because they don’t have the same cognitive reasoning ability that we do.
So what do we do about these situations? First let’s see what we can do for your pet!
Can we make the arthritic dog or cat less painful so that they can move easier (thus allowing them to avoid a situation that they don’t like)
For example, a small child pulling a cat’s tail, a young cat may still lash out or it can very easily move away from the child, where as an older cat may not be able to get away and will likely scratch or bite the child. Whose fault is this the cat or the child?
Yes, we are certain this has happened in many St. Albert households!
After a while kitty will usually get tired of a little one chasing him and lash out! We shouldn’t hold it against the cat but try to explain to the youngster that some of their antics can be scaring kitty. Another example is when a older dog who may be deaf and very slow moving are unable to get out of the kids way. Kids fighting and chasing each other around sometimes run into the dog and even perhaps fall on her. When this happens she may bite because she is only trying to protect herself; not because she is mean or misbehaved… she just hurts.
Most kids have been taught that they are to respect the pets and that if they are bothering the animals either intentionally or unintentionally that it isn’t fair. We need to make them well aware that our pets are part of the family and that it is our job to help look after them and keep them safe just like mommy and daddy do for them. They know that if an old dog is having trouble going up the stairs to get an adult to help here, same thing if she falls on the slippery hardwood floors in the house and can’t get up that they are to find someone to help her.
Kids and older pets can live well together and many St. Albert families are great examples of this! The team at Mission Ridge Animal Hospital is here to help you care for your senior pets and teach your youngsters that we need to respect the space of a pet and to learn that they are part of the family. They deserve to be treated like any other member of our family would be.