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Making your pet a child lover

What’s more heartwarming than watching your child frolic with the family’s first kitten or puppy? But when that adorable ball of fluff suddenly hisses or snaps and your child bursts into tears … then what? You can ensure that everyone gets along by doing your homework before bringing Fluffy home. Start at the library, seek a veterinarian’s expert advice or go online. Then choose a pet—puppy, kitten, guinea pig or goldfish—that’s child friendly. Say no to large dogs, cranky breeds of cats and exotic pets like reptiles, monkeys and tarantulas.

Teach your child nurturing behavior like handling an animal correctly and not bothering one who’s eating or sleeping. Even the gentlest creature may scratch or bite if provoked. Parents should always supervise walking, feeding, bathing and cleaning up after Fido or Felix. Warn your child that screams, loud noise or chasing could frighten a pet and make it frantic. Since warm fur attracts fleas and ticks, consider whether flea collars, dips or more extreme measures will be needed where you live. If your child is allergy-prone, have your doctor test if animal dander causes an allergic reaction.

By anticipating basic needs and setting rules for treatment and care, your kids and new pet will become fast friends in no time.