Figuring out if your child is ready for a pet can be an involved procedure, no matter how old he or she is. There is no hard and fast rule regarding at what age a child is prepared for a pet. Certainly there are many benefits to having a pet while growing up. Caring for a living creature helps to build empathy, responsibility and a kindness for the world around us. However, there are a few factors to take into consideration when deciding if a pet is right for your family.
First of all, it is important to realize that if you have a small child, you are the one who will be taking care of the pet. Some parents fall into the trap of believing that the pet and the child will keep each other occupied. The truth is that having a pet creates a lot more work for parents, and that children will not be a significant amount of help with a pet until they are much older.
Different types of pets require a different amount of work as well as providing various levels of enjoyment. For example, a goldfish in a bowl is cheap and easy to take care of, but provides little interaction. A dog or cat is a much greater commitment in terms of time and money but may also provide hours of fun and interaction for your child every day.
Some children may be really good at following instructions like “Be gentle,” or “Don’t pull the dog’s tail,” while others create a mutually antagonistic relationship with animals. It’s a good idea to experiment before determining if your child is ready for a pet. There are a few ways to do this. You can ask friends or family to borrow a pet for a few hours or days to see how your child does with him or her. If your family has a history of animal allergies, you should also consult with your child’s doctor.
It’s also wise to consider your child’s temperament when considering pet readiness. Is he or she the type that gets a new toy and plays with it for five minutes before getting bored or does his or her interest last for weeks or even months? This can help you decide how interesting the pet will be once the novelty wears off. Some children will develop a strong bond with a pet and consider it a friend or a family member while others will get bored within a day and want something new.
Finally, determine how much the adults in the family want an animal addition. If the parents love cats or dogs and have always taken care of animals, a pet is probably a great addition to your family, as it will be taken care of and receive love and affection. If the animal is only being adopted because of the wishes of a small child, it’s probably better to wait until the child is older and can take on more of the responsibility and rewards of maintaining an animal.