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Choosing the right pet for your child

author Lucy Byrne | Care and raising

Who didn’t want an animal companion as a child? Keeping pets can be valuable experience for children. An animal companion also brings a lot of joy to the household. But taking care of a pet also brings many duties and responsibility. How to choose right then?


A pet can teach a child responsibility and meaningful spending of free time and with the help of parents, also taking care of a living being. And if the pet is cared for lovingly, the mutual relationship of the animal and the child will be beneficial for the whole family. Animals can return the same love which is given to them. Nevertheless, the parents, and particularly those who don’t have experience with keeping pets themselves, shouldn’t succumb to the pressure by their children and choose the animal companion for their child carefully. You should consider your and your child’s free time (besides school, learning, extra-curricular activities…) and also financial situation, the environment and other aspects that are relevant for the care of pets.


Cat or dog? Or what about a rodent?


Cute kittens and puppies are number one for kids. And children also want to be like their adult role models so they may wish to get a pet which is way bigger than they are. For some parents it may be more reasonable to assist in taking care of a dog or a cat than other less intelligent species such as fish or reptiles. But it may also be the other way round. It is therefore important to match the family preferences, so the pet would be really integrated in the family and get everything it needs.


If a cat or a dog wouldn’t be a good option for parents, I recommend searching for a small animal, for example a rodent. These little animals with cute looks and silky fur have many advantages. Taking care of them is not as demanding as taking care of a cat or a dog for example. They do not need so much attention with regard to time, are much more compact and quite undemanding for your wallet. Small rodents are also easier to live with in general. When you get them a cage with equipment, the basic things they need is to keep their bedding clean and to refill food and fresh drinkable water. It is also good to secure various cables and holes (and flowerpots, for example) if you plan to get a rabbit.


Research first: Measure twice, cut once


I highly recommend doing a small research before you decide. With the Internet available almost everywhere, it is easy to look up any important information. Each species has its own specific features and nutrition and other needs. On the websites of breeding clubs and elsewhere, you can find practical advice and tips how to for example take care of the fur of your future animal as well as many educational videos which show children what is expected from them when they become owners of an animal in an entertaining way.

For example, hamsters and guinea pigs have a completely different needs when it comes to contact and the overall interaction with a human than chinchillas. It is also good to be aware of the fact that rodents, except for hamsters which are solitary, are social animals. Brown rats may be a big surprise for many people as they are really intelligent and easily tamed. If your child is into agility, a brown rat can be the right choice instead of a dog. Great companions for children are also guinea pigs who are not noisy at night unlike hamsters. A little disadvantage of guinea pigs is the fact that their cage has to be cleaned every two days. They like feeding from hands which helps to develop fine motor skills of children.


Consider the nature of the breed in advance


But if you are still deciding between a cat or a dog, it is also necessary to give answers to several other questions: Cats are much more independent with regard to excretion (for cats who live in apartments, it is enough to regularly change the toilet) as well as food preparation (it is definitely enough to prepare the food and fresh water in a bowl). But it doesn’t mean it’s a smaller commitment to take care of a cat. Both dogs and cats need regular visits at a vet, not only because of vaccination and warm treatments. If you aren’t planning to get a dog or a cat for breeding, also think about castration.


Also find information of various breeds which are different in their nature. It is particularly important for dogs, not every temperament is good for any family. A dog shouldn’t be shy and afraid of noises but neither should it be aggressive. Again, people at breeding stations and pet deposits and shelters can help with choosing the right dog or cat. For a dog, you also have to take into account that you have to teach it elementary obedience and in a perfect case, also train it at an obedience school. You also have to feed it and walk it several times a day. A dog is very dependent on a human in whose presence it feels comfortable and it requires the human to play and cuddle with it. Are you ready for all of this?


Particularly to families and first-time owners, I recommend to take a pet from a verified breeder with a certificate of origin. Taking care of animals from a pet shelter might be specific in certain aspects and it’s better to already have some experience. One last recommendation in the end. In general, it is better to get a pet with an older child (at least 5 years old). Although it is highly individual and it depends on your willingness to invest time and energy in taking care of your new pet, you will avoid unnecessary troubles by this – both yours and your pet’s who might eventually end up at a shelter.

Good luck with your decision and have a nice time together :).