Caring for a pet is an awesome way to help your kid learn to be responsible. Having a pet will also help your child develop compassion, empathy, love, and respect for others.
Pets can be an essential part of family life, but is your child ready for one? How can you tell? Here are some things to consider.
- Consider your child’s developmental stage. If this is going to be your child’s first pet, choose one whose needs can be met by your child. There are some pets that need daily attention such as cats and dogs. They must be groomed, fed, exercised, and cleaned up after. There are pets that only require minimal care and may be an excellent choice for a younger child. Examples are guinea pigs, birds, fish, hamsters, and turtles.
- Wait until your child expresses genuine, consistent interest in getting a pet. Typically, children over 5 years of age are the ones who start to show interest in a cat, dog, or other animals. Very young kids such as toddlers are more likely to injure a pet or risk being injured by a startled animal.
- Evaluate your child’s responsibility and maturity level. If he takes direction well, is considered mature for his age, shows empathy for animals, has a calm nature, and uses common sense, he is probably ready for a pet to care for. Does your child remember to brush his teeth without being reminded? Does your child help around the house? These are good indications of his maturity level.
- Ask your pediatrician in Dallas about the health risks involved, especially if your family has a strong history of allergic disorders. Keep in mind too that all sorts of pet are a potential source of disease. However, practicing good hygiene – like proper hand washing after playing with a pet – will keep your child safe. In addition, it’s best to only buy from reputable shelters or breeders. This will minimize the risk of getting a diseased or injured animal.
Should you finally decide that your child is ready for a pet, first discuss everything that is involved in successfully caring for it. Take him to a pet store or get him a book on pet care so he will fully understand what the animal needs and what is expected of him.
For questions or concerns regarding your child’s overall health and development, we at Pediatric Associates of Dallas are more than happy to help.