There may come a time in your parenting life in which your child becomes curious about pets. Maybe it’s because their closest friends have dogs, cats, fish, or turtles of their own. Or maybe it’s because your own extended family members or people in your neighborhood keep pets. Regardless, your kid may notice how much pets contribute to the daily happiness of the people around them. It may come naturally, then, for them to ask you if they can keep a pet of their own.
If you’re a first-time pet owner, or if the last time you owned a pet was before you had a family of your own, it’s worth thinking about how this decision will affect your child. This article will walk you through the benefits of saying yes and welcoming a new furred, feathered, or scaly family member into your home.
They’ll Learn Responsibility
The first thing all parents should teach their children about pet ownership is that it’s a tremendous responsibility. Unlike toys, books, or other inanimate objects that your children interact with, pets are living, breathing things that need constant care and attention. Your kid will need to watch over them even for the times that pet ownership isn’t fun, such as when they have to clean up litter.
But once your kid learns important responsibilities, like how to feed their puppy or take care of their custom dog beds, your family life will be all the better for it. Your child will learn how to step up and take initiative with their pet, which is a lesson that will serve them for life.
They’ll Develop Empathy and Compassion
Two other things that your child will gain from taking care of their own pet are empathy and compassion. They will be compelled to see the world through your pet’s eyes and learn for themselves what it is that keeps the animal happy and healthy. If your kid develops these empathetic and compassionate attitudes early on in life, they will continue to extend this kindness not only to animals but also to other human beings.
They’ll Learn the Basics of Animal Biology
The science of life is a pretty exciting thing for kids to learn. There would be no better teacher for basic animal biology concepts than their own pet. Your kid will learn firsthand why your pet needs to eat certain foods, why they behave the way they do, and how they communicate and interact with other animals in their species. Hopefully, keeping a pet will help them understand what the animal kingdom is like, as well as what humans can do to take care of the planet.
Their Physical and Mental Health May Improve
Keeping a pet at home may also be good for your child’s physical and mental health. Studies like those of Hesselmar et al, conducted at the Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, demonstrate that children are less likely to develop hay fever, asthma, or eczema if they grow up with cats or dogs.
There’s also some evidence that keeping a pet can bolster mental health and help family members cope with loneliness and anxiety. A recent study done by the University of York and the University of Lincoln showed that the bonds families developed with animals took them through difficult times, like the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
Thus, the physical and mental health benefits of keeping a pet form a compelling argument for letting your child take care of one. In times of crisis, it will do a lot to make them feel like they are enjoying a happy, healthy, and normal childhood with their beloved pet.
They’ll Be More Bonded to the World Around Them
If all goes well and you’re able to live a good family life with your pet, you and your children will have fantastic memories. They can look back on the days when they’d lounge around the house with cats, go on daily walks with dogs, or build beautiful marine or terrestrial environments for fish or reptiles.
What these memories will have in common is a sense of being bonded or connected to the pet, to family members, and to the world at large. There are precious few things that compare to this, so letting your kid have these experiences with their pets—and of course, sharing these experiences with them—will be a wonderful gift overall.
Some Final Pet Care Tips for You and Your Kid
The best way to ensure that you and your child will enjoy family life with a new pet is to actively prepare for pet ownership. Before you buy a pet or adopt one from a shelter, make sure that:
• You’ve had a talk with your kid about the responsibilities they’ll need to keep once they have a pet.
• You’ve decided what kind of pet will be good to keep, and whether you have space, time, and financial capability to take care of it.
• You’ve done your research about the proper daily care of the animal, such as their diet, the environment they need to live in, and the equipment you’ll need.
• You’ve found a provider for veterinary care near your home, in case your pet gets sick or injured.
Keeping a pet can be one of the most rewarding things your child will experience. The same goes for you, given that you will be supervising the pet’s care. Here’s to hoping that your journey to pet ownership will be a smooth one, and that you, your kids, and your pets will share the happiest of lives together!