Most kids decide at some point that they’d like a pet (or another pet!). Your children will see the pets in their lives or friends’ lives, or discover amazing animals in books or television shows, and will want to have that same relationship with a pet.
So, how do you make the right choice for your family?
The first thing you have to decide as a parent is whether having a pet is something you and your family want to take on. What kind of time do you have? What is the size of your home and yard? Are you financially prepared for the costs of owning a pet? Are there any allergies in the family to consider?
Animal ownership is a big and serious responsibility. When you consider whether to get a pet, you are taking on all the caregiving responsibilities for the life of that animal. Can you commit to this? It’s worth having a focused conversation with your children about what having a pet entails and how they will help.
After you’ve decided that your family will take on the responsibility of a new pet, the next step is to determine what kind of pet best matches your family and lifestyle. A big factor will be the ages of your children. Depending on how old they are will determine how much responsibility they can take on as well as what animals will be best for them. Talk with your kids about making the right choice and all the requirements for different pets.
Here are some pros and cons to the most common family pets:
- Pros - Younger children can feed and watch fish easily. The tanks, especially for goldfish and bettas, are small and can be kept easily on a desk, shelf or counter. They are inexpensive and have shown to be calming in households.
Cons - They cannot be snuggled or played with and have short life spans. Cleaning the tank or bowl can be messy.
- Pros - They are very independent and easily maintained in smaller households. Depending on the personality of the cat, they can be quite snuggly or playful.
- Cons - They can be aloof or picky about playtimes that can be hard for kids to understand. They require more attention than some pets you can choose. They have the highest allergy rate among people. Cats can live 20 years and are a long commitment. Their claws can scratch people or furniture. Cats require veterinary care including vaccinations and spaying/ neutering which can be expensive.
- Pros - Dogs are very trainable, playful, and snuggly. Dogs are extremely loving and develop close bonds with their family.
- Cons - They require a lot of attention and need to be exercised daily. Depending on the size of the dog, they may also require more space to run. Having a dog is a big commitment as you will need to get outside every day for the life of the dog (this is a pro as well, having a dog will mean you get out for daily walks!). Dogs also require veterinary care for life and cannot be left alone.
Small Mammal (Hamster, Mice, Gerbil, Rat, Guinea Pig)
- Pros - Small mammals are great for early elementary-aged kids because they are easy to care for, and the kids can do the tasks needed. Depending on which animal you choose, they can be affectionate and snuggly. They don’t require a ton of space for housing.
- Cons - They have short life spans. Depending on the animal you choose, they can be challenging for toddlers to handle or understand that they are not toys. Some will nip if not handled carefully. Hamsters are nocturnal.
- Pros - Birds are very affectionate and bond quickly with people. They can be calming and quite entertaining. Some birds are very smart!
- Cons - They can be messy and early risers. Birds are fragile, and they have to be handled carefully. Larger birds have long life spans.
- Pros - They are generally contained to one area. They are calming and low maintenance once set up.
- Cons - Reptiles have salmonella naturally on their scales and can transmit it if hands are not washed properly. The living conditions can be expensive to maintain because they have particular needs to be met.
Talking about getting a family pet creates a ton of excitement. You can channel some of that energy by asking your kids to create a drawing of the pets they’re imagining joining your family. Give them a Purple Ladybug Scratch Paper Art Set in black or the Multicolor version to allow your kids to draw all sorts of animals! You could also sit down and read What Pet Should I Get by Dr. Seuss and spend some time talking about all the possibilities.
Don't forget to grab this week's FREE printables! Family Pets Printables Booklet for your kids to enjoy!
Having a family pet has benefits for everyone involved. Kids get to learn a lot about caring for a living creature and the responsibility of having another’s life in your hands. Pets produce a calming effect when snuggles happen that release good hormones that are soothing. It has been shown that kids with pets tend to have higher self-esteem as well. Making the right choice for your family is key to a healthy and happy experience for you, your kids and your pet!
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