-Isolation of Sick Animals
Everybody must acknowledge that it is a good thing to teach children affection and kindness to animals. The child who is deliberately cruel to a cat has been badly brought up if he is mentally and morally sane. Nursery pets can be utilised to teach children a great many virtues if they are made responsible for their feeding and care.
There is, however, another side to the question, a more dangerous one from the health and hygienic point of view. A great many diseases are transmissible from animals to the human species. Infectious disease can be carried by a cat, whilst skin affections are very often traced to infection from domestic animals. Cats, for example, frequently suffer from sore throats, and diphtheria can be contracted from kissing one. The same thing is true of influenza. A dog will carry the microbes of scarlet fever on his coat if allowed in the same bed or room with a patient suffering from the disease.
Some mothers are extremely foolish about domestic animals. They never teach children that it is wrong to kiss animals, or even to bury their chubby faces in their coats. One has only to reflect for a moment upon the haunts of the domestic cat, in her peregrinations through the lanes and back ways of the towns, to come to the conclusion that the juxtaposition of the child's face and the cat is not desirable. One of the rules in the nursery should be that, while children are allowed to stroke the animals, they must not be permitted to get into the habit of kissing them or bringing them in contact with their faces.
Another rule should be that cat or dog must never be allowed to repose upon the children's beds. More than fleas can be deposited upon the eiderdown. The cat, for example, may contract favus, a very objectionable skin disease, from the mice she hunts, and transmit it to the child with whom she sleeps. The dog may be suffering from any number of ailments which make it unsuitable for him to sleep in the same room with children.
Animals, further, should be fed elsewhere than in the nursery. The spectacle of a cat sitting on the same chair as a child and trying to poke its head on the same plate is more than objectionable. It is dangerous, just as it is dangerous for animals to lick off the children's plates after meals, because these may not be efficiently washed in the kitchen.
The outdoor pets are less objectionable. They are not using up the fresh air required by the children. There is no danger of them interfering with the children's meals or sleeping in their beds. At the same time, tame mice and white rats, when handled by the children, will transmit many skin affections of an infectious order. Even the rabbit is not above reproach, but the danger is diminished considerably in every case it the child is taught proper hygienic precautions. The animals should be kept perfectly clean, for one thing. If they are clean and healthy, they are not so likely to contract infectious disease themselves. The children must learn that animals should not be handled unnecessarily, and that affection should be expressed in words rather than caresses.
Another point is that the children should not be allowed to come in contact with a sick animal. It is a good plan to isolate the family cat or terrier if it shows signs of sickness or symptoms of even cold in the head. The sneezing, coughing cat, with running eyes and nose, will spread infection to half a dozen children. Cats can suffer from most of the infectious ailments contracted by human beings, and it is very probable that influenza, diphtheria, and all sorts of catarrhs will spread freely through her agency.
Thus it can be seen that mothers ought to be more alive than they are to the risks of nursery pets. When there is a young infant in the nursery the wisest course is to keep the animals outside. It is quite an easy matter for a cat to smother a baby by the simple process of lying on its chest. The lick of a dog is well meant, but the baby's face is better without such tokens of affection, whilst animals often suffer from jealousy, and with an angry snap inflict a nasty bite on a child.
The other side of the question, of course, must not be forgotten. Children naturally love animals and like to have their company, and so long as the mother understands and guards against the risks enumerated above, there is no reason why they should be abolished altogether from the children's quarters. Let them be kept in their own place on the hearthrug, not on the chairs, tables, or beds. Let them be fed outside of the nursery. Above all, have them kept scrupulously clean if they are to come in contact with the children. Regular washing of the dog is a hygienic necessity, as well as a kindness to the animal in question. As a rule, the children take charge of their outdoor pets themselves, and they should be compelled to keep them clean and comfortable on the penalty of giving them up. In this way the child's sense of responsibility-is developed and all hygienic requirements are satisfied.