Finding the Right Pet for your Child
We’ve all likely asked for a dog or cat at some point when we were children. I remember I wanted a dog when I was six and my parents said I was too young to handle the responsibility. At the time I didn’t understand, but choosing the right pet for your child is an important step in making sure both your child and your pet are happy and safe. The ASPCA recently published an article that offers some suggestions on how to pick the right pet for your child.
The article broke down each age group.
- Pets for Infants: Infants are unable to grasp the concept of pet responsibility. If you already have a pet when your infant is born, be sure to properly introduce your child and your pet to each other. Supervision is key. As your child and pet get to know each other, generally increase the time the two spend together.
- Pets for Toddlers: The ASPCA suggests pet owners look for pets that can be handled in a way conducive to a toddler’s way of learning. Toddlers grasp and tug to learn about their surroundings. A pet that is sensitive to having its fur pulled may not make the best pet for a toddler. Always be alert and supervise your toddler and your pet when they are together. The ASPCA also reminds parents to watch your pet’s food and water bowls, litter boxes and other items (such as cords, tanks, etc.) since toddlers can move quickly and are curious about new things.
- Pets for Ages 3-5 Years: Since children at this age are learning about contact and empathy, it’s best to choose a pet that likes to be held and touched. The ASPCA recommends a pet like a guinea pig since they enjoy being held and are not standoffish. This avoids any uncomfortable confrontation between your pet and child.
- Pets for Ages 5-10 Years: Children in this age group tend to have short term attention spans. Animals such as fish or gerbils are the ideal animal. These types of animals are perfect for educating your child on the importance of proper hygiene when handling pets. It’s also a good age range to teach responsibility when it comes to caring for a pet.
- Pets for Ages 10-13 Years: This age group tends to have a greater interest in animals and ability to grasp the responsibilities of owning a pet. Preteens are usually old enough to handle larger pets like dogs, cats or rabbits. They are also able to take on added involvement with a pet such as cleaning, feeding and exercise.
- Pets for Ages 14-17 Years: Since teenagers tend to be quite busy, a pet that requires frequent attention and time is not necessarily ideal for either the teen or the pet. Animals like birds or fish are easier to care for with a busy schedule and don’t always require constant care.
Sometimes it’s more than just choosing the right pet for your child. Making sure both your child and pet are happy and safe is key. Before you introduce a pet to your child, it’s always wise to keep these suggestions in mind.