Choosing A Pet For Young Children
A child’s first pet can be a wonderful experience if you choose properly. A pet can provide unconditional love while teaching a child about responsibility. However, if you have kids under 6 years old in the house, there are some important things to consider.
THINK ABOUT THE SIZE AND TEMPERAMENT OF THE PET
A hamster might seem like a good pet but they can sometimes nip or get harmed if mishandled. Young children tend to “love” a pet too much and might squeeze or drop them and hamsters and gerbils have been known to get lost in the house.
If you are looking for a cuddly, small pet, you might want to consider a guinea pig or a rabbit while your children are young. These animals are a good choice because they can better tolerate little hands that may not be quite as gentle as they should be. They can be placed on a child’s lap to be petted and bonded with. No grooming is required since these animals groom themselves. Vet visits are not necessary either, if the health of the animal is good. Maintaining good health can be accomplished by offering a complete diet and exercise. Also, think about their cage size – both pets should have approximately a 2’x 3’ enclosure.
Rabbits and guinea pigs should be taken out of their cages each day and played with. They can roam around the house or be taken out into the yard (make sure they are not going where chemical fertilizer has been sprayed). A harness can be put on your rabbit or guinea pig to ensure that it does not get away. You can also use an exercise pen or a hutch to allow your pet to enjoy being outside for short periods of time.
Fish are very easy pets for young children. They never leave their habitat and there are many different types your child can choose from. Fish can be an inexpensive pet and can teach your child about responsibility. Children can feed their fish and will need to learn how to keep their fish happy and healthy. One thing to remember with fish is how delicate they are. Fish can sometimes end up being a child’s first experience with death. Although it’s never an easy topic to discuss and can be traumatic for a child, it can be an easy way to help a child understand one of life’s toughest lessons. One or two fish can live in a bowl, but you would have to change the water weekly. You may want to consider an aquarium with a filter. This option can be more expensive initially, but would allow more choices in the selection of fish and also lessen the amount of time maintaining the tank.
If you have a more exotic pet in mind, you may want to consider a bearded dragon or leopard gecko. They make great family pets; they are very docile, making them easy to handle. A child can put them on their shirtsleeves and they do not bite. The biggest drawback may be that they eat live crickets. They also require heat lamps that can be very hot, especially for little fingers.
Dogs and cats can be a child’s best friend or a big headache if not chosen properly. You have to do your research before choosing the right one for your family situation. It’s very easy to get caught up in how adorable a particular breed may be. A lot of the smaller breed dogs may not be well-suited to small children. Adopting rescued dogs and cats is ideal, but do some homework on the dog or cat you are interested in. Ask whoever is running the rescue if the particular dog or cat has been around children.
CONSIDER YOUR FAMILY’S LIFESTYLE
All pets require time for upkeep and most require time spent to entertain them. For example, a family that spends much of the summer up north would not do well with a cat because they need daily attention and don’t travel well. A dog would be able to travel with you, but if you choose to hire a pet sitter or board your dog instead, this can cost you $15-30 a day. A neighbor or friend can always watch your rabbit, guinea pig or reptile and a fish can go 2-3 days without food if necessary.
When you find the ideal pet for your child, it can be a wonderful experience. Furthermore, the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) has research showing the many benefits of having a pet, claiming interaction with pets can positively influence children’s physical and emotional development and even their scholastic achievement.