What is the best age for children to have pets?
As a parent, one of the greatest experiences in life is bearing witness to your child’s own joy. There’s just something about seeing that smile and look of contentment beaming from their face that makes you fight for their happiness, even more than your own. Naturally, you try to provide them with the most enriching environment that you can; one that maintains a healthy balance between them having what they want and having what they need. So, what do you do when your little one comes to you with those big, beautiful eyes and asks if they can have a pet? How do you know when it’s time, and if it is time, how, in this big wide world, do you find the pet that is just right for your child and your home?
Pets can teach wonderful life lessons in responsibility. Consider getting a pet that children can take care of themselves. Keeping this in mind, the type of pet will certainly vary according to your child’s age:
Ages four and above
While some children may be ready for a pet earlier than this, most do not begin to show signs of readiness and responsibility for one until around the age of four. At this age, the key is starting small. Buying an easy-to-care-for fish is an excellent choice. If you do go this route, keep in mind that while a goldfish may seem like the obvious pick, Betta fish actually require a lot less maintenance and have a much longer lifespan than the typical goldfish.
Ages five and above
At this age, cats can be introduced to the list of pet options, but it is advised to choose a cat of two to three years of age, rather than a kitten. Choosing a slightly older feline will more likely bring a pet with a calmer temperament into the family. Kittens can be jumpy and can accidentally injure your child with their sharp teeth and claws.
Ages eight and above
Unless you are looking to handle the majority of the upkeep yourself, it’s a good idea to wait until your child is at least eight before getting a hamster or guinea pig. Maintenance will be more involved than that of a goldfish, with regular cage cleanings, so be sure to get the full scoop from the pet store before committing to your child’s new furry friend. Another thing to remember before you make your purchase: hamsters and guinea pigs are nocturnal!
Birds are another great option for children of this age. Requiring roughly the same amount of maintenance as a hamster or guinea pig, your child might find a bird to be a better fit for them. A good breed to start out with is the parakeet. These are relatively less expensive and need less maintenance than a cockatiel or cockatoo.
Ages ten and above
By the time your child has reached this age, a dog will be a wonderful choice. At this point, they are able to properly take care of their beloved pet largely on their own, but it is still a huge amount of responsibility and should be discussed before agreeing to adopt. A few child-friendly options to consider are the Golden Retriever, a Labrador, a Beagle or a Newfoundland. Deciding whether to bring home a puppy or a slightly older canine is another choice that will need to be agreed upon, as caring for a puppy is far more work than looking after a two-year-old dog. Regardless of age, all dogs have different temperaments and can react more anxiously in certain situations than in others. If you do adopt a canine and you find they are struggling with anxiety, consider dog calming tablets. These can prove quite helpful during thunderstorms, car rides or trips to the kennel.
If owning a dog is not a good fit for your home, why not try an aquarium? While there is a higher level of upkeep required than there would be with an open bowl, an aquarium can provide peace and tranquillity to its surrounding environment; something that every preteen and adolescent could certainly use in their lives!
The benefits of owning a pet cannot be denied. Along with teaching responsibility, pets can become a wonderful emotional outlet for your child and their very best friend. Still, it is important to keep the safety of your child and their pet at the forefront of your mind. Make safe pairings between pet and child, follow the guidelines given to you upon acquiring your child’s pet, and always supervise interactions between pet and child, especially if they are of a younger age.