Actors say you should never work with children or animals, but if you are a parent the likelihood is that a time will come when you will have to do both, at the same time.
Spurred on by cuddly cartoon animals, classroom hamsters and friends’ cute kittens, most children will, at some point, begin to demand a pet of their own – but which pets are best for children?
While parents may baulk at the idea of bringing another living creature into their home, for which they will ultimately end up being responsible, there are a number of benefits of allowing children to keep a pet – and choosing the right animal to introduce into your household can help ensure that the pet-owning experience is one that enriches and enhances your family life.
Small pets for small children
If you are looking to introduce your younger child to the responsibilities of pet-keeping it is usually a good idea to start small – for children up to six years there are a range of “starter pet” options, with something on offer to suit all family styles.
Coldwater fish such as goldfish make a great first pet for kids, who can be given responsibility for feeding the aquatic animals, refreshing their water and cleaning their tanks as necessary. Take advice from your local pet store on the size of tank and set up you will need, as this will vary according to the type and number of fish you choose to purchase as pets.
Small rodents such as gerbils, hamsters, mice and even rats are all good choices of caged pets for children to keep in the home – although each of the above mentioned animals has very specific needs in terms of housing and exercise that parents should familiarise themselves with before committing to bring any into their home environment. Parents need to be aware of how these animals should be handled and should guide their children in their interactions in the early days to ensure there are no accidents.
While some parents may have fond memories of their first budgie or canary the fashion for keeping small birds in cages is really coming to an end, and these should not be considered as great pets for kids unless the family is willing to commit to aviary construction to ensure they can provide the right environment.
Older children are ready to take responsibility
As children grow, the kind of pets you might want to consider changes, at the age of seven or eight your child may be responsible enough to play their part in the raising of an animal that requires a little extra input.
Rabbits and guinea pigs can both be kept outside or in, and pet sellers will advise on equipment needed for each of these options. Older children should be able to clean out cages, feed and water on their own, with little input from parents.
Puppies are a popular choice of pet for children of this age, and they bring a number of benefits in terms of companionship and responsibility as children reap the rewards of training and caring for their new pet.
Dogs are also a good choice of pet for families who wish to make their animal a real part of the family as they can easily be taken along on family holiday or days out in the car – although parents should keep an eye on whether travel and environmental changes cause anxiety for their pets. If this is the case dog stress relief products are available and important when on the move.
Cats and Kittens are a great choice for the family who wants a little furry friend, without the commitment to daily exercise or cleaning out a cage, if you install a cat flap in your home you can even do away with the need for an unpleasant litter tray, as cats much prefer to go outside to perform their natural functions where possible.
Choosing a pet for your child
Whichever pet you decide to bring into your home, it is important that you instil in your child that they are responsible for caretaking tasks. However, parents should only ever commit to a pet that they would be willing to care for themselves in the event the child does not bond with, or loses interest in the animal. However, the likelihood is that a pet present will be the beginning of a lasting friendship that will teach your child a great selection of life lessons.