Children are naturally interested in interacting with—and getting a reaction from—the family pet. It’s not uncommon for them to hide food, play a little too rough, play dress up with the pet or put makeup and hair products on her. In these situations, parental guidance is needed, as a pet may feel uncomfortable or suffer harm if dangerous substances are ingested.
More serious, however, is when a child intends to hurt an animal. Whether the cause is peer pressure or a cry for help, true malicious animal cruelty is not a behavior that children outgrow by themselves. Professional intervention may be needed to prevent behavior problems that can stay with a child into adulthood, and even be acted out on other human beings.