Preparing Your Child for the Responsibility of Being a Pet Owner
“Can I have a pet?” It’s a question most parents hear at some point, and it may come with a little bit of fear and anxiety. Sure, pets come with plenty of benefits to your little one such as teaching responsibility and empathy, instilling confidence, improving socialization, and providing unconditional love. However, your biggest fear is that after the newness wears off, you’ll be left to raise and care for the pet on your own. You need to make sure your child is truly prepared for such a large (and permanent) responsibility. Below we’ll talk about ways to accomplish that, as well as some of the best pets for children.
Is Your Child Ready?
It’s important to gauge readiness before bringing home a pet. First and foremost, is your child comfortable around animals, or are they a little skittish and unsure? Has your child mastered the skill of gentle play? Children can naturally be a little rough and rambunctious, but this can be dangerous with a pet. Practice caring for a new pet with a stuffed animal, explaining how movement and tone of voice come into play.
No matter how ready your child may be, don’t forget about allergies. You may not even realize your child is allergic until Fido is walking through the door, so consider having your doctor test for pet allergies. Keep in mind that pets not only bring fur and dander, but they can have fleas and ticks, too. Fleas aren’t dangerous to your child, but those little bites can be itchy, so protect your pet and your child with a flea collar and/or regular treatment (this goes for dogs, cats, ferrets, and even guinea pigs).
Teach Proper Pet Care
Teaching your child to care for a pet takes time and patience, but doing so ensures a happy pet, child, and parent. Depending on the pet you’re considering, list all pet responsibilities and discuss each in detail, including which ones your child will be in charge of. Reinforce pet care with a pet-related reward such as playing, snuggling, or picking out a new toy the two can enjoy together. A new pet is a learning process for everyone, so never take away pet playtime or hand out a negative pet chore as a form of punishment.
Now, Which Pet to Get?
Dogs. All dogs seem cute and friendly, but there are certain dog breeds that are more suitable for children. Some have a more patient temperament and aren’t as quick to react when a child gets loud or forgets to be gentle. Common family-friendly breeds are cocker spaniels, golden retrievers, labs, beagles, and boxers, but this isn’t to say you can’t get whatever breed you prefer. The key is to find a dog with the right personality, temperament, and energy level.
Cats. A cat is another common choice, but similar to dogs, there are particular cat breeds that are well-known for being kid-friendly such as Burmese, Maine coon, Birman, and Bengal. Cats are just as loving as dogs, but they can be a little more complicated to read. It is important to teach your child how to properly engage with your cat (and dog for that matter) by reading body language and supervising all interactions.
Ferrets. Ferrets are adorable and small and make great family pets since they are sociable, friendly, affectionate, quiet, and easily trained. They each bring a distinct personality, so you’ll want to work closely with a trustworthy breeder to find the right match as well as get helpful tips on cultivating a relationship between your child and their new furry friend. Other small pets to consider are hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and rabbits. All come with unique care needs, and some need more companionship (and snuggles) than others. For example, if you choose to adopt a rabbit, he’ll need to have a way to exercise. An outdoor hutch solves this problem, but be sure to check reviews, cost, and size before making a purchase.
A family pet is a huge step, but a pet will certainly bring lots of love into your family. Before you take the plunge, make sure your child is truly ready. The responsibility is huge, but the reward is even greater!
Photo By: Pexels