How to Teach Children How to Hold Pets Properly
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How to Teach Children How to Hold Pets Properly

How to teach a child to hold a pet correctly. Help children learn the right way to hold their pet without hurting it or getting biten. Learn about kids and rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, cats, and dogs. Is it okay to pick up a pet by the scruff of its neck?

If you are a parent and are considering getting a pet for your family, or already have one, and you have children, it is very important to teach your children how to hold the pet correctly. When children do not hold pets properly not only does the pet risk getting hurt, but the pet could also hurt the child out of anger, pain, or fear.

How to Hold a Rabbit

Rabbits generally do not like being picked up or put down, even by adults. They are fine to hold, but it should be left to an adult to pick them up and put them down when getting them from the cage or putting them back. Rabbits tend to squirm most at this time and can jump and get hurt.

Rabbits should be picked up, and held, with two hands. One hand is towards the front of the bunny, with some fingers ahead of its front legs, and the palm supporting the front legs, with the thumb over the back. The other hand should support the rabbit under its hind legs. The rabbit should be held close to your body, using your body to keep it still, and calm.

When playing with the rabbit it can held be on a persons lap, let loose on the floor, or kept someplace safe where it cannot fall.

How to Hold a Guinea Pig

Guinea Pigs are pretty much the same as rabbits, although they are slightly less frightened of being picked up and put down. All other holding instructions still apply with guinea pigs.

How to Hold a Hamster

picture child holding a hamster

photo source

Although small, hamsters still should be held correctly and with two hands. Since hamsters are nocturnal and sleep in the day, they should be woken slowly, because if startled they could bite.

To pick up, and hold a hamster, put one hand underneath it and cup another hand over the body of the animal. Use cupped fingers to prevent the hamster from jumping.

Never pick a hamster up by the scruff of its neck. This is incorrect with the exception of emergency situations, but a child should not be taught to hold a hamster this way.

How to Hold a Cat or Kitten

Sometimes parents mistakenly teach their children that it is okay to pick up a cat, or a kitten, by the scruff of its neck. This is never okay! Mother cats carry their kittens this way only because they have no option, and even they stop doing this after a certain age.

Your child should be taught to pick up a cat with two hands. One hand under the front chest part of the cat and the other hand under the back legs and bottom. Never let a child hold the cat around the middle leaving the body and back legs hanging. The child should hold the cat close to themselves to use their body in holding the cat.

Children must be taught that when the cat squirms it is ready to be put down, and putting down a cat means to gently place it down, not to drop it.

How to Hold a Dog or Puppy

Generally speaking if a dog is small enough for a child to hold, it should not be picked up. Small dogs, especially toy dogs, are small more fragile than cats, and do not handle being dropped well. It is not uncommon for small dogs to suffer broken limbs, or ribs, from being dropped, even accidentally. Some drops occur innocently enough when a child is trying to put the dog down but isn't quick enough, or strong enough to hold the squirming dog.

If for some reason a child is to be allowed to carry a dog, they should be taught as per the same instructions as carrying a cat.


When we look at buying small caged pets as children's pets, parents should consider that the animals sold in pet stores are generally not socialized, or use to being picked up. Pet store animals are more likely to bite than a pet that was home raised and is use to being handled and picked up by children. Typically animal shelters also have tame caged pets for adoption.

If you are considering getting a cat for a family pet, consider a slightly older kitten, or adult cat. Kittens can be very claw aggressive and may not like being held. Parents are best to select a cat that enjoys being held and is good with children. Animal shelters usually have loads of family friendly adult cats for adoption.

Young children should never be allowed to go up, or down, stairs while carrying a pet.

Children and pets, particularly dogs, should never be left alone together.

Further Reading

Involving Young Children in Pet Ownership

How to Have Pets and Children Not Hurt Each Other

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Comments (7)

This is wonderful and important lesson to teach! Promoted!

since pets are mostly soft and cudly this instruction is really needed. Well presented. Promoted.

Well done instructions for my grand kids, thank you.

Holding animals are priceless, specially the small ones. Thanks for this post, Brenda. Very instructive for the kids and some adults.

The great work here. Tops!

I agree with you although I had a son who at two spent so much time with his jersey wooly that all he had to do was put both hands on the bottom of the cage with the palms up and his bunny would hop right into his hands and sit there quietly waiting for him to take him out. By age three he could groom and show a rabbit better than most older kids. He simply had an affinity for animals and still does.

Coming back with a well deserved vote up.