A first pet is an exciting and demanding challenge for a young child. Most children love animals, and the thought of them having their own pet can be very enticing. It’s important to remember that most children have never been responsible for something as demanding as a live pet. Even though they may promise to feed it and groom it regularly, they may not live up to their guarantees.
Your child may be begging for a cuddly companion, but do your homework before heading to the nearest pet store or shelter. Bringing an animal into your home and life shouldn’t be an impulsive decision; it’s a lifelong commitment.
You should also keep your child’s developmental stage in mind. If you are getting a pet as a companion for your child, it is good to wait until she is mature enough to handle and care for the animal. Younger children may have difficulty distinguishing an animal from a toy, so they may inadvertently provoke a bite through teasing or mistreatment.
If you feel your child is developmentally ready, discuss the animal’s needs and everything involved in caring for it first. With this in mind, if you’re really ready to choose a pet for your family, here’s what to think about first.
What to consider when choosing your child’s first pet
Not all animals are child-friendly: you may have a dream dog or a favorite feline in mind, but some are too high-energy or aggressive. In contrast, others are skittish and easily frightened. Some don’t tolerate rough play, while others are prone to bing and scratching. And some can carry diseases and bacteria. If your child is allergic to some animals or has other health issues, that’s another reason to choose your pet wisely.
Before you adopt or purchase any pet, consider the space you live in, the time required to train and care for it, how it might interact with children or other pets in the home, its average lifespan, and its diet.
Choosing a Pet – What’s the best pet for kids?
The trick is choosing your species. If you had a dog growing up, you might be raring to raise a dog lover of your own. A cat may be more apt if you’re a city dweller. Or maybe you’d like to test the waters with a fish or two. Every animal has pros and cons, so here’s a little thought about some popular first-time pets.
- Dogs. The classic family pet, but which breed makes the best pets for kids? Every dog is different; larger breeds tend to be more tolerant of child’s play than smaller dogs who nip and bark more easily. Try to spend some time with the pup to make sure he’ll fit in well with your family. At the very least, you can get as much info as you can from the breeder, pet store, or shelter before you bring your new dog home.
- Cats. Would a kitty make the purr-fect pet for your posse? Purr-haps, but keep in mind that a cat will likely be less tolerant of your tot’s rambunctious roughhousing than a dog would.
- Fish. A fish can be the ideal starter pet for your tot, especially if you choose a low-maintenance swimmer like a betta fish or a goldfish. While it won’t wag its tail when it greets you, a fish can still provide entertainment and lessons about responsibility. Even young toddlers can help with feeding or adding a little water to the bowl.
- Guinea Pigs. If low upkeep is high on your list and you’re not fond of fish, choosing a guinea pig for a pet might be good. They’re cute and cuddly, and they rarely bite. Yet, they’re still small and delicate and not recommended for kids under six. But you can always supervise your child when they’re playing with his guinea pig, and don’t let him carry it around and potentially drop the pet.
- Birds. You can also consider a domestic bird if you feel like your household can’t cope with a four-legged creature or if your child’s too rough to handle a hands-on pet. Choose a kid-friendly breed like a chatty, playful parakeet, and your little one might be able to get in some language lessons, too. Just put the cage out of reach when you’re not around, and teach your child to keep his fingers out of the cage while shooting the breeze with his bird.
While choosing from the pets mentioned above, you can also add their lifespan when deciding which to choose as your child’s first pet. A dog’s average lifespan is ten to thirteen years, while a cat’s is two to sixteen years, perhaps enough until your child goes to college? If you want a pet with a shorter life span, you can consider having a guinea pig with an average lifespan of four to eight years. But if you want a life-long pet, you might want to consider having a bird; a parrot, for example, can generally outlive its owner and live up to a hundred years!
Kids can learn many lessons from caring for their first pet before getting it. Patience is required to wait until you finally agree they are old and mature enough to care for another creature. There is perseverance if you’ve attached some condition to pet ownership, such as saving up for the adoption fee or purchasing some of the equipment.
And once they are actually caring for a pet, they are strengthening their empathy skills through the experience of managing another living thing day after day. You can also factor in the emotional support an animal can provide your child as possibly the best benefit of having a pet.