Pets and Kids
Do you have an animal friend in your house?
There is something special about the relationship between a pet and a child. Pets teach empathy and responsibility to kids and they don’t talk back to mom and dad. They have the ability to be an integral part of a family. If a family can swing it financially, allergy and otherwise, they are a wonderful addition to the household.
Since my kids have been born, we’ve always had at least one cat living with us. We’ve had our current cat, Gus, since 2003. He is a loyal companion to our oldest child, who has always had the innate ability to understand animals. My younger two children are very active and our beloved Gussy tends to steer clear of them. However, he is able to sense if any of the three kids is having a tough day and will perch himself on their bed or lap as if to say, “It going to be ok.”
An estimated 4 in 10 children begin life in a family with domestic animals, and up to 90 percent of all kids live with a pet at some point during their childhood, according to Gail F. Melson, PhD and author of Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children.
If you are looking to add an animal to the family, the best time for a pet depends on a child’s age. The website of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists out helpful tips for parents.
For kids ages 3-5, a good animal for a pet is a guinea pig. Guinea pigs like to be held and seldom bite. Because they whistle when they are happy or excited, they offer some playful feedback to the kids as well. Filling the food dish and water bowl are tasks appropriate for that age.
Kids age 5-10 years have inconsistent attention spans and are best with small pets. Animals such as gerbils and goldfish that need food, water and play sessions are optimal. With supervision, kids this age can also manage chores such as cleaning out the cages and scrubbing down toys and furniture.
Once a child is age 10-13 and able to handle more responsibility, a cat, dog or rabbit can be considered. The kids should be ready to handle the feeding, walking and litter box/cage cleaning. Kids can deepen their relationship with their pet by reading pet care books or participating in dog training classes.
As kids move into their teen years, they become very busy and the ASPCA recommends birds and aquarium fish. Despite their ability to handle the responsibility of a dog or cat, teens tend to lead a demanding lifestyle that lends itself to a smaller time commitment for a pet.
Pets provide families with laughs and comfort. They teach our children countless life lessons. Whether it’s the whistle of a guinea pig, the purr of a cat or a sloppy kiss from a dog, pets have the ability to give unconditional love to kids and parents. If it will work easily into your family, consider adding a pet.