Pet Pals: Everything You Need to Know About Children and Pets

There’s nothing sweeter than a tale of a boy and his dog. Most of us have or will have a pet during our children’s early years. Pets provide a beneficial and loving bond in your child’s life. Pet ownership can also bring a slew of positives to your entire family and provide a sense of love and companionship. Read on to learn about how furry friends (and goldfish, too!) can teach valuable lessons to your little ones as they grow.

Caring for Critters

One of the best reasons for introducing a pet into your family atmosphere is to help children learn the responsibility of caring for a pet. Even small children can help play an active role in pet care. Have your little one help you change the water in the fish tank, pour the dry food for a cat or dog, or help collect leaves for your house bunny. Giving children a designated task for the pet will help them learn how to nurture and care for others—a skill that they’ll need for other areas of their life.

Understanding Animals

Having a pet can also instill a love for learning in your child. Have them examine spider webs or talk to them about how all living things need food, shelter, water and exercise. Let your child ask questions and examine their own pets. Explain the difference between animals with fur and animals with feathers. Your child will also love to talk about their pets at school, use their pet for school projects and check out books at the library that explain facts about their animal.

Puppy Love

The most amazing reason to get a pet for your child is because of the strong bond that your little one will form with their pet. They’ll think of the pet as a member of the family and treat them as such. Your pet in return will provide great companionship for your child, as well as, protection over your child. It’s not uncommon to overhear your little one pretending or telling secrets with their pet. This can be especially important for children that don’t have siblings to play with.

Bonding with Baby

Having a baby can bring about big changes for a pet who’s had a family all to itself. Let your pet smell your new baby’s blanket before they smell the baby. Play a CD of baby noises before baby’s arrival and make sure to never leave your baby unsupervised with a pet. Even the sweetest of pets can have a hard time adjusting to a new family member. The great part? Research shows having a pet can help your child grow up with less allergies and may help reduce the risk of your little one having asthma. That’s a pretty good reason to add a pet to your brood.

You’ve Got a Friend

Choosing the right pet for your family can take time and research. Pets are much like children in the fact that they need a lot of care, as well as, exercise, food, and tons of nurturing. If you travel a lot or are rarely home, it may be a good idea to wait until you have a more stable schedule before getting a pet. If you think your family is ready to take on the responsibility of having a four-legged friend, there are many great options available. A dog will take the most work because it needs to be walked and groomed daily. A cat is a great pet because they are friendly but also need independent time. Cats are also easy to housebreak and can potty independently. Hamsters, Gerbils and Bunnies are great pets for your children to take care of. They each have a sturdy set of guidelines to provide the perfect care, so make sure you research best practices before taking on one of these sweet, furry friends. Birds are a fun pet for your children but require research before purchasing. A goldfish is a wonderful starter pet for your child because it allows them to take care of a living thing without having too much maintenance. Betta fish are also a great idea. Exotic pets are hard to care for and are often times illegal in your state. It’s best to avoid these kinds of animals around your little ones.

Safe House

One of the most important things to introduce to your family before, during and after getting a pet is the concept of pet safety. Make sure to supervise children and pets at all times. You will also want to teach your child the importance of respecting a pet’s body and space. Teach them to touch gently and never interrupt an animal while it’s eating and sleeping. Going over these safety rules can ensure that your little one stays safe as well. Remember to clean up after pets and keep any doggy chew toys out of reach of small children.

Children innately love the idea of caring for and loving an animal. If you can provide a loving, nurturing home for a pet, there’s no reason not to add one to your family. But remember that getting a pet is a FAMILY decision. There will be days when your little one might forget to check on, play with or feed your family pet. You’ll want to be okay with stepping in to help with these chores should your child get too busy with school work, or other activities. Pets provide a safe, comfortable kind of love that your entire family will cherish forever.