I was sent a link to this article about teaching young children to be nice to animals and am happy to share it with you. I feel strongly that children should learn compassion and caring at an early age and interacting with pets is a great way to do it. We know that children who don't empathize with animals often become teens and adults who are aggressive toward not only animals but people too.
I tried to make my classroom an animal friendly zone so that the children could experience caring for pets even if they didn't have any at home. Over the years we had a variety of small animals as pets (gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, and birds) and the children had clearly defined responsibility of them (with supervision of course). I also took my dogs to school on a regular basis (good for the kids and for the socialization of my dogs). One of my favorite teaching units was based on the incubation and hatching of chicks. There's something very magical about viewing the chick embryos through the egg shells by holding them up to bright light; it was always a highlight to watch the embryos moving within the shell and see the blood vessels at work. Once the chicks hatched, the kids would sit in a circle with the chicks in the middle. They were taught how to hold the chicks safely and they also knew that if chicken poop happened near them, they were responsible for getting wet paper towel to clean it up. It was a terrific way to teach Family Life Education, Science, and Social Studies in one fell swoop.
For the child in your life, this article has ten great ideas to help you teach compassion and sharing and is worth reading.