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Say Yes When Your Child Asks for a Pet. Here’s Why

Whether it’s a dog, cat, rabbit or reptile, pets can have real and positive effects on your child’s emotional and physical development. If your family has the resources to take care of a pet and no one in the house is allergic, you may want to consider getting your child an animal companion.

Benefits of Having a Pet

If your child wants a pet, it can be beneficial to their development in many ways. Children often experience enhanced feelings and build new skills, including:

  • Mood. Animals can boost children’s moods because they feel empowered to take care of other living things.
  • Social skills. While walking the dog or holding a kitten, your child may feel more comfortable interacting with other kids or neighbors.
  • Responsibility. Children learn problem solving and practice planning when they are responsible for pets.
  • Exercise. Dogs require walks and can help your child stay active.
  • Health. Babies who have early contact with cats or dogs are 30 percent less likely to experience colds, ear infections and coughs than children who are not exposed to animals. And a study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that children who had a dog in their first year of life were 13 percent less likely to develop asthma than children from dog-free households.

Best Age To Adopt a Pet

There are lots of opinions on when your child is ready for a pet. But the right time for a family pet is when your child is showing signs of empathy and understands how to treat animals. For children younger than 5, always monitor their interactions with pets. 

If the primary objective for getting a pet is teaching your child more responsibility, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your child want a pet?
  • Is your child calm and patient with animals?
  • Does your child have time to spend with the pet?
  • Do you have time to supervise your child and the pet?
  • How responsible is your child?

In general, a child who is 5 or 6 years old can be expected to help you with some of the simple chores, such as leashing the dog, giving out treats after walks or refilling the water bowl.

Choosing a Pet

Are certain pets better for kids than others? The answer is no, as long as the animal or breed is child-friendly. Some kids beg for a dog, others long for a rabbit or hamster, and still others find fish to be the perfect calming companions.

With the holidays coming up, parents may be tempted to give pets as presents. That can be fun — as long as you are sure your child wants that type of pet. If it has never been discussed, you may not know if your child has any concerns or fears about owning a pet.

You also need to be sure that the entire family wants the pet. If one doesn’t, you should talk beforehand and understand why. Is there a fear or does someone not want to be involved in the pet’s care? There may be points to negotiate, but you must hear everyone first.

Finally, think carefully about whether the pet you’re getting will fit into your family’s lifestyle, and be aware that kids might lose interest in the animal. Then, its care becomes solely your responsibility. After all, your pet has become part of your family and deserves love and care for the rest of its life.

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