Is your child ready for a pet? How do you know if they’re too young to be responsible for a dog or cat? Read on and get our benchmarks for kids and pets.
Don’t expect your baby to interact with a pet. You should never leave a small child alone with an animal. When your child starts to crawl, keep animal food and toys out of its path. Not only do you not want your child sampling the dog food, but because some dogs and cats are possessive, you’ll want to head off potential confrontations by keeping the baby away from the pet’s “things.” Small kids can be grabby with pets, and they can potentially hurt animals by clutching at fur, ears, and tails. Make sure your pet has a safe place to go when it wants to escape the little one.
Again, keep your child away from all pet food and toys. If your pet guards its food, teach it to eat right away by implementing a 15-minute rule. After 15 minutes, pick up the dog’s food and put it away, whether it’s finished or not. If you repeat this at every meal, your dog will quickly learn to eat while it has the chance. For toys, try to offer your dog a place where it can enjoy its toys without any interference.
At this age, children are ready to help take care of a pet so long as they have parental supervision. Kids of this age are old enough to play with dogs and cats unsupervised, so long as they have a good, stable history together. Pre-schoolers might enjoy helping with measuring out dog food, getting the kitty fresh water, or putting apple and banana pieces in a hamster’s cage.
Now kids can really start helping take care of the pet. They’re ready to learn about the responsibility of daily chores like feeding a pet, walking it, and cleaning its cage. They might also enjoy doing some pet training, setting up habitats, or doing maze-experiments with rodents.
Middle and High School
This is prime pet-ownership time. However, as kids age, their focus may shift toward other things. That’s a good moment for parents to remind them of their responsibility to the pet. If you care for your pet, you’ll take care of it even if your social life is blooming!
When kids of this age show a serious interest in animals, it can take them in exciting directions. Your child may decide to volunteer at an animal shelter, enter 4-H competitions, become serious about dog training, or consider becoming a vertinarian.