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Old 10-14-2008, 11:34 PM
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Thumbs up Teach a Kid to Respect and Bond with Cats Start at home to make a global difference

By Franny Syufy, About.com

It comes as no surprise that the future of our planet and the creatures we share it with depends on what young people are learning today. Certainly, we are horrified to read the occasional story about gangs of youths committing atrocities on innocent cats, and we are aware that this kind of anti-social behavior often leads to violent criminal activity as adults.

The good news is that youngsters are like sponges when it comes to absorbing values, and even those who do not have good role models at home can be reached through their schools and through social programs. What they learn today about respect and responsibility for not only pet cats and dogs, but for all the animals that share our planet, will go a long way in molding the future of our world.

I have a great deal of faith in the young people of today, and I'd like to contribute my part in helping to teach them responsibility toward pets - the cats and dogs who inhabit their lives. Many of them will carry these lessons forward into care and concern for all the animals that populate our world.

As a parent, grandparent, or just a concerned adult, there are many things you can do to help mold our kids into responsible, caring, animal stewards. Depending on your own personal convictions, and the amount of time you care to invest, you can adapt and adopt any of these suggestions for your own children and those around you.

Be a Responsible Adult (Teach by Example)

The very first "mission" for installing love and respect for all animals is in the home itself. Children are more likely to mimic what they see in their every-day surroundings than to embrace what they've been taught by others.

* Spay and neuter your own cats and dogs
While you're at it, talk to your kids in language that they'll understand about the problems with pet overpopulation and how you're doing your part at home to counter it.
* Practice responsible pet guardianship
See that your cats get their necessary vaccinations and well-checks, and when they're sick, take them to the vet. Provide the best cat food you can afford for your kitties. When your kids reach adulthood, they will copy what they've learned at home.
* If you are vegetarian, talk to your children about your reasons for this practice. Buy or buy the book " Cows are Vegetarians," and read it with your children.
* Speak out when you witness cruelty to animals.
By turning a blind eye, you are communicating to your children that cruelty may be okay. Don't engage in physical confrontation, but when appropriate, report the incident to the proper authorities. Again, teach respect for animals by example. You'll observe, as your child learns to bond with his own cats, he will carry that love and respect to other animals.
* Volunteer for a shelter or rescue group .
When your child is old enough to understand and contribute, bring him or her along, and encourage him or her to help with small tasks, such as cleaning cages or grooming the cats.

Talk to your local shelter or rescue group about presentations on pet responsibility for kids. Members of these organizations might be willing to bring along animals that are used to being handled by strangers, depending on the age of your audience.

You don't have to be an accomplished public speaker for this purpose. In fact, it is better if you talk casually, as you would when speaking to a neighbor kid or teenager. The purpose is not to lecture, but to get youngsters to open up their minds about possibilities, and to discuss their own perceptions and feelings about pets and animals in the wild kingdom. Kids can participate by drawing pictures of their own pets, writing stories about a favorite kitty, and for older students, doing the "math" of animal overpopulation.

A number of humane organizations provide teaching packages that are either free or available for for classrooms for a small charge. If you can't bring yourself to participate directly, you can sponsor a classroom of 32 students to receive nine monthly issues of KIND (Kids in Nature's Defense) News, for $30 per school year. KIND News is printed in three versions, by grade: primary (K-2), junior (grades 3-4), and senior (grades 5-6), and the subscription includes a teacher package with other classroom aides. Consider the following suggestions and resources for different age groups:

Pre-School and K-3

* Read aloud the story of Misty, the One in a Million Cat, which teaches the importance of spay-neuter to younger children, along with delightful illustrations by a young man. Then discuss the story with your youngsters.
* The Denver Dumb Friends League has a wonderful lesson plan for K-2 in PDF format.
* If you live in the U.K., you can order a Purrfect education pack for children of nursery age.
* Cut out photos of animals from magazines, including cats, dogs, birds, monkeys, iguanas. Let the children try to identify the animal. If it is a cat or dog, ask them if they have one at home. If it is another animal, ask whether it would make a good pet, including reasons why and why not.
* Copy and print coloring pages of cats and dogs. Ask the children to color and name their "pet." Here's a good one to start with, from the Massachussets SPCA, and another, with multiple cute pictures, from PetFinder.com's Tama and Friends. Encourage them to talk about their own pets as they color.
* Help the kids make their own "Doily Noodle Lion." While making it, talk about the similarities and differences between big cats and pet cats.
* Discuss the things "your pet needs." Here is a great worksheet for prompting participation.
* Use the information in the sidebar links for other activities.

Elementary and Middle School

* KIND News is a great tool for ages up to grade 6, if you can afford it. Most of the preparatory work has been done for you.
* Introduce the concept of Spay & Neuter. Copy and print the Overpopulation Math Sheet from Share the World.
* Talk about responsible pet ownership (pets as family members, rather than disposable property.) Share the World has a wonderful worksheet in PDF format about Animals and their Feelings.
* Use "The Value of Animals" worksheet to discuss why we assign certain values to different animals. Talk about the value of our own animal companions in our lives.
* U.K. Residents can get a free "Cats in the Classroom" pack for class presentations.
* Ask a rescue person to come to to class to discuss the plight of homeless cats and dogs.
* Schedule a trip to a local zoo. You'll need school permission, as well as several parents to assist with supervision. On a subsequent visit to the classroom, discuss the benefits and downsides of keeping wild animals in zoos.

High School

Many students of high school age are ready to take on advocacy issues. A good place to start is with the urgency to relieve animal overpopulation by spay and neuter. Talk about the mathematics first; they are always a real eye-opener to the extent of the problem, and visually show how a local problem can have global impact. (As a refresher, one female cat and her offspring can be responsible for 100 to 400 kittens born in just seven years.) Here are some other activities, along with links with discussion topics that can be adopted for your area:

* Schedule a trip to a shelter for a first-hand view of homeless pets. (School and parental permission are necessary.) On a later day, discuss what you saw and talk about what students can do to help. Problem Solving: Ending Pet Overpopulation ; a program created by the Denver Dumb Animal League for local schools. (PDF Format)
* 10 Ways You Can Help Pet Overpopulation (Also from DDAL)
* "Understanding Animal Cruelty" is published by NAHEE, the educational division of HSUS. For $3.00, you can review it for possible material for a high school audience.

What Can Kids Do?

* Hold fund-raisers (bake sales, car washes, sock dances, etc.) to raise money to donate to shelters and rescue groups.
* Talk to your shelter and local supermarkets about a pet food collection area for donation to local shelters (shoppers buy pet food to donate and the store sets it aside for collection.)The students can pick up and deliver the food on a regular basis.
* Kids of almost any age can make "Catnip Mice" for donating to shelters and rescue groups. Or sell them at a craft fair and donate the proceeds.
* Home Ec students can put together small "snugglers" for lining cages.

We've started with a few ways you can help kids make a difference in our world. You no doubt will think of more. Send along your ideas with the Submit a Cats Tip form, and I'll post the best ones in this section. Use "Kids and Cats" as the subject, so it will get my attention. --

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