The bond between a child and their furry companion is undoubtedly a precious one and empowering your child to take on the responsibility of caring for a pet of their own can be a significantly positive step in shaping their future personality and behaviour.
Pets Add Value to Children’s Lives
- Having a pet by their side teaches children to be responsible and empathetic while providing them with a playful companion that can keep them on their toes and give them that much needed physical activity!
- Pets foster family bonds by encouraging members to come together and participate in collaborative activities with each other and their pets.
- Studies have proven that pets reduce children’s susceptibility to asthma and allergies. When living with an animal before the age of one, children have shown to develop fortified immune systems compared to children who have had no exposure to pets in their homes.
- Pets build a child’s self-confidence. When old enough to realise their pets are solely reliant on them alone to survive and thrive, a child’s self-esteem is boosted. They feel a sense of pride and ownership, knowing they play a significant role in keeping their pet happy and safe and this increases their inner confidence.
- Pets teach children the beautiful traits of forgiveness, loyalty, companionship, trust, love and empathy. These are invaluable qualities they will learn to transfer onto other animals and people throughout their lives.
- The companionship of both cats and dogs instils a sense of calm, comfort and security in all human members of their families. Research has proven that pets reduce stress and anxiety levels in their human counterparts. (Pets – Guardians against Anxiety and Depression)
- The joys of having a four-legged friend comes with a long-term responsibility and commitment, therefore kids who take ownership of their furry friends will learn to commit to things in life at an earlier age than those without that important sense of duty.
So, with all this said, when does a child become fully prepared for pet ownership and what is the right time to introduce a loyal companion into their life? Depending on your child’s age and personality, you may need to consider certain factors before making this significant decision.
Babies and Furry Friends
At this age your (human) bundle of joy can’t obviously be expected to understand the responsibility that comes with having a pet. If you already share your home with a fur child prior to your newborn’s arrival, it’s important to put your fur baby at ease with the upcoming changes and guide them into the new routine without feelings of stress or neglect. Training your pet for the new arrival is the first step in this transitional process. Set a certain time in your daily schedule where you don’t engage with your pet, empowering them to play and explore on their own, thereby encouraging independence. This way when the baby arrives your four-footed child won’t suddenly feel abandoned as your focus shifts towards taking care of your baby. Having said that, your pet is still, and will always be, your fur child, so while it is understandable that a few months will pass before your timetable finally adjusts, make a concerted effort to shower your pet with all the love and attention they so rightfully deserve. (Preparing your First-born Fur Babies to meet your Newborn)
Toddlers and Furry Friends
Getting your toddler a pet of their own can be quite the delicate situation. While your child may now understand what pets are, they are not yet prepared to take accountability for them. If you’re planning on adding a pet friend to your household with a toddler in tow, consider having bigger breeds of dogs and cats as a toddler may obliviously mistreat or harm smaller animals. Also take into consideration the fact that you will be taking on the responsibility of your new fur baby, consuming even more time and commitment on your part. It’s essential to do your due diligence about potential breeds that will seamlessly fit in with your unique family culture and requirements.
School Age Children and Furry Friends
Children aged 6 years and upwards are probably the best prepared and most enthusiastic about the prospect of taking care of a fluffy friend. At this impressionable age your child may begin to openly express a desire to have a pet of their own. If your child is not used to having a pet, start with smaller animals such as a goldfish or hamster to teach them the important foundations of taking care of another living soul. You will still need to monitor tasks such as feeding the little one, cleaning their living quarters along with monitoring any signs of sickness that your child may easily overlook.
Pre-teens and teens are even better prepared and more pedantic when owing pets. Depending on their levels of interest, you can consider adding larger breeds of dogs and cats and even non-traditional pets such as hedgehogs, birds, rodents or reptiles to your family!
Although age plays a substantial part in determining when the right time to get a pet for your child is, it’s also crucial to factor in their unique personality. If your child shows no interest in having a pet, then either forget the idea entirely or take on a pet with the knowledge that as parents, any associated responsibility may very well fall on your shoulders, so be sure that you have the physical, emotional as well as financial capacity to do so.
Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson
Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.