Should young children have pets?

Every child should have a pet they can call their own. Now, deciding what type of pet and what age a child will be ready for a pet should be decided by the parent NOT the child as the parent will be the primary care-taker of this pet. Parents should never put the responsibility of raising a pet on the shoulder of a child. Children make mistakes, they forget things, they are not always responsible and this could be detrimental, even deadly to a pet. You can help a child learn responsibility by helping in the care of the pet, but the parent should always supervise in the care of the pet.

Having worked in animal rescue I would highly discourage getting a pet for a child less than 6 years of age. Young children are not able to comprehend the animals’ behavior and you could be putting both your child and your new pet at risk. Pets do not understand that the small child didn’t mean to hurt them by pulling their tail, ears or handfuls of fur and will instinctually react by growling, hissing, scratching, or biting. Small children also often don’t understand how powerful they are and can accidently hurt or kill a small kitten or puppy by carrying it by the neck, by dropping it or even stepping on it. By age six children usually have a better understanding of how they should treat an animal.

Children and animals should always be supervised together, especially when a new animal is brought into the home. You never know how the child or the animal might react to the other. It is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to children and animals as you are now responsible for two lives.

Is it better to get a cat or a dog? This depends on your child and your family and you. Are you an outdoors family who spends a lot of time playing outside, going to the park, the beach, and camping? If so you may want to invest your energy into a dog that can be a companion to you and your child on such outings. Remember when looking into getting a dog that puppies will require training and there are many types of dog breeds that are high energy and require lots of attention and walks. If you often work late and will not be able to spend a lot of time with an animal a dog is probably not the way to go.

If your child is quite and prefers the indoors or if you have a hectic schedule and don’t have a lot of time to invest in training an animal a cat may be the better route. Cats are more independent and can spend more time alone than can dogs, and they can be just as loving. When looking into a cat be sure to spend time with the cat before bringing it home. Kittens are often a little on the wild side and require more attention then cats do, if you are worried about your drapes or claw marks I would suggest skipping a kitten and picking out an adult cat. Also another hint of advice when trying to decide between a cat or kitten is that with a kitten their personalities are not evolved yet and the sweet loving kitten at the shelter might be a very rowdy, high energy cat, whereas with adult cats it is more of a case of what you see is what you get.

I would also recommend looking into getting an animal from a rescue organization as opposed to a “free” kitten, puppy, dog or cat. Most of these animals live in foster homes and have had more human interacation then the animals that are being given away. Rescue organizations can be very helpful in helping you find the right pet for you and your child.

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