It’s almost guaranteed that your child will want a pet at some point in their young lives. Pretty much every child I have met has a fascination with some sort of animal. Most of the time its puppies or kittens but occasionally your child might choose a more exotic pet – like lizards or snakes! No matter what type of animal your children have decided to take a liking to, it’s important to take a good hard look and ask yourself truthfully – is your child ready for a pet?
Taking care of a pet is something I consider an important part of growing up. The lessons learned by taking care of and loving another creature is something I want my children to experience to the fullest extent – plus, having animals around just makes life happier in my opinion! Pets give unconditional love, offer comfort and act as a safe sounding board when you need someone to talk to. Fido doesn’t judge you and he’s certainly not going to tell mom that you hate your math teacher! However, since there is another life on the line in this decision its not one to be taken lightly, knowing if your child is ready for a pet can be challenging but here are a few things to keep in mind!
Is Your Child Ready For a Pet?
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The First Thing to Ask Yourself – Are YOU Ready?
While this might be considered your ‘child’s’ pet, let’s be honest with one another – you’re going to end up helping at least some of the time. Bringing an animal into the house and then leaving it solely in the hands of a child is incredibly irresponsible and almost sure to end in disaster.
It’s perfectly fine to tell your child that the pet is their responsibility and to expect them to do most of the pet-related chores. However, as the adult in the house then it’s your responsibility to make sure that the animal is being taken care of properly. This might mean helping to clean out unwieldy cages, teaching them how to measure out food or just checking every day to make sure your child remembers to refill the water dish. Your child might claim ownership of the pet but you’re still responsible for it.
If you are not willing to take on the full responsibility of this animal when your child is at school, summer camp or just grows bored with it- your child does not need a pet.
Is Your Child Realistically Capable of Handling The Pet?
Your child might think a chameleon would be a fantastic pet but even a little bit of research shows they are incredibly finicky creatures with specialized requirements. If your child is squeamish at the thought of handling bugs or incapable of understanding how temperature controls work then this pet might be too complicated for them right now.
If your ultimate goal is to make this your child’s pet (even though you’re going to help out) then it’s important to steer them towards an appropriate creature. I would not expect my seven-year-old to be capable of housebreaking and training a puppy – but she’s had a fish since she was five with great success. Matching your child with a pet of appropriate skill level for their age is a good way to make this a successful foray into pet ownership.
Is Your Child Emotionally Mature Enough For A Pet?
Animals are unpredictable even at the best of times. Puppies nip, kittens scratch and hamsters can be moody little beasts! Every now and then your child’s pet will not cooperate with what your child wants to do. While dealing with animals can be helpful in teaching patience it won’t work out well if your child reacts to frustrating moments with angry outbursts.
Animals should never be subjected to emotional outbursts from their owners and while kids sometimes react harshly without meaning actual harm it’s not a good match for a pet. Consider a hands-off pet (like a fish) or wait a few more years until they have matured a bit more.
Doe’s Your Child Have Previous Animal Experience?
If you already have family pets then you probably have a good idea of how your child treats animals. If you don’t have pets already then consider the way your child has been with pets owned by family and friends. If you want to give your child the full expirience then you might consider offering to petsit for someone! Older children might even be able to volunteer at the local shelter.
If you have no way of giving your child a bit of experience with their chosen animal (and your seriously considering getting them one) then you might assign them a project. Make it like a school project, have them research the animal and present you with their findings. If nothing else they will gain a better understanding of the work that will be required.
Getting Your First Pet Is a Big Step!
It’s something that most of us remember long after our animals are gone. It’s a memory that we all want for our children and we want those memories to be good ones! But, getting a pet (especially if your household is currently animal-free) can be a pretty big lifestyle change.
It’s important to think about this before committing. If your family takes numerous vacations every year then you need to think about where the pet will stay. Will you board your animal, or do you have trusted family and friends who can look after them while you’re gone?
You might also consider the budget requirements of adding a new animal to your household, there are toys, crates/cages, and food to consider. Not to mention vet fees and possibly even insurance! If you’re big on teaching your kids responsibility then you might consider having your children work for an allowance so they can help support their new companion. While I don’t make my children pay for pet food and vet fees they do save up money to pay for optional new toys and pet birthday/Christmas presents! Yes, my animals get birthday and Christmas presents – they are a part of the family too!
I don’t think there is a specific age that answers the question ‘Is your child ready for a pet ‘ rather I think that each family needs to think over their specific lifestyle with their children in mind and make a decision that works for them!