The best time to get your kids a pet
Pets are a huge responsibility — and as parents, we want to make sure our kids are ready for the task. Here's what you should consider before taking the plunge and getting a pet!
My parents were always pretty lax when it came to pets. From a young age, we had everything from hamsters and guinea pigs to cats and dogs. We swore up and down we'd take care of them, only to get bored within a few weeks and forget. This forced our parents to become the main caretakers of the mini-zoo we begged for. Now that I’m raising my own family, I refuse to take on a herd of animals in addition to my kids. We spoke with Certified Dog Training expert Amy Robinson regarding the best time to get your child a pet.
SheKnows: How old should your child be?
Amy Robinson: I don't believe there is a magic age when it comes to getting your child a pet. Here are a few tips to know when your child is ready:
- The child takes responsibility for their schoolwork.
- He or she is a self-starter, getting up for school and getting dressed without prodding.
- The child gravitates toward the outdoors and is interested in nature (this is especially important when getting a dog).
- The child shows compassion for living things, even bugs!
SK: When is the best time to get a pet?
AR: The best time to get a pet might be during school breaks, like holiday time, when everyone is home for at least a few days. I suggest getting together a job chart to show what is involved in day-to-day care. Parents should assign age-appropriate jobs and include themselves on the chart, so kids look at tasks as fun ways to bond with the pet. Kids as young as 3 can help with feeding and water, but avoid asking your preschooler to walk a Great Dane!
SK: Is there ever a time you shouldn't get your child a pet?
AR: Getting a pet can't fix a sad or stressful event, like the loss of a grandparent or a best friend moving away. Teach kids pets are not possessions, but living, breathing, needy beings looking to humans for their health and happiness.
Other factors to consider when getting a pet
It's important to make sure that you are also ready to get a pet, not just your child. Yes, your child needs to be responsible and old enough to handle a pet, but as a parent, you're still the one in charge of it. Most likely, you'll be the one financially responsible for the pet. This includes food, toys, cages or kennels, shots, vet bills and even the cost of replacing a household item if the pet were to have an accident.
Another factor to consider before getting your child a pet is your schedules. If your child goes to school, participates in after-school activities and plays sports, now may not be a great time. Also, take a look at your own schedule. Do you work often or are you able to stay home with the kids? If no one's home most days, it's not fair to the pet to keep it trapped for 10+ hours per day.
When did you first get a pet or when did you first get your child a pet? Share in the comments below!