by Brandon at Fur & Feathers
Is your child ready for a new stage in responsibility? If so, it may be time to consider getting them their first pet. There are many benefits to getting a child an animal to care for. In addition to teaching them how to manage a schedule and recognize another being’s needs, there are also tons of physical and mental health benefits. Animals keep kids active, happy, and calm.
But how do you know it’s time for a pet? And if it’s time, which pet is right for your child? This article will take you through gauging your little one’s maturity level, interests, and abilities to see which furry friend is right for them.
Are They Ready for a Pet?
Your first step is figuring out whether your child is truly ready for a pet. On a very basic level, this comes down to dexterity and spatial awareness. Does your child know not to squeeze real animals the way they might squeeze a plush toy? Do they know how to pet fur without grabbing? Can they understand an animal’s body language well enough to keep themselves and the animal out of harm?
These might be hard things to gauge without getting them around some pets. If you have a friend with a particularly laid-back, child-friendly animal, ask if your child can spend some time with them. Stay with them, and teach your child how to appropriately interact with the animal in question. This will give you a sense for whether they’ve reached the beginning stages of pet readiness.
What Jobs Can They Handle?
In some ways, pet readiness comes down to what pet care tasks you’re willing to take on. A younger child can manage a certain level of pet care – if you’re able to take on the other tasks, then you can start them earlier. For example, a five-year-old won’t be ready to take care of a dog alone. However, if you can help them with reminders for feeding and walk times, then they can ease into pet care.
A young teen, however, may be responsible enough that you can give them more freedom to care for the animal on their own. Children of any age might need additional tools to care for their dog as well as possible. For example, a dog ramp can help a small or young dog safely get on and off of higher surfaces when people aren’t nearby. There are many versions available that can stay out or be tucked away if necessary.
No matter what age your child is, remember that pet care may be an ongoing learning process. They might be excellent at cleaning a litter box but forget to brush the cat. As the adult, it’s ultimately your job to ensure that any animal you adopt is being cared for properly. Give them room to figure it out, but pay close attention and step in if necessary. You can also look around for pet care clinics that teach children the basics. Many adoption agencies even lend pups for these programs. This can help your child gain experience, and, you never know, they might just meet their new best friend in class!
Which Pet Is Best?
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to picking an animal for your child. Start by looking at your little one’s personality. Do they love being active and spending time outdoors? If so, a dog can be a good fit, since they’re already interested in going outside. Are they an introvert, inclined to spend evenings reading quietly? A cat can be the perfect armchair companion.
On the other hand, sometimes pets can bring out positive qualities we lack. A child who isn’t particularly physically active might benefit from the energy a dog brings to the table. A kid who always bounces off the walls might find a tank full of fish soothing and meditative. Don’t go with an animal that’s a complete mismatch for your kid – that’s bound to backfire – but the right pet can be the gentle encouragement your kid needs to reach their potential.
Pets are a great way to give your child a sense of independence and responsibility. Take care to find the right animal for your child, and help them take on age-appropriate care tasks along the way. In doing so, you’ll give them more confidence, reduce their anxiety, and maybe even give them a new best friend.
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