Tiny boy playing with ginger cat house.Growing up with a pet is a wonderful memory for many of us; and as parents, we want our kids to share in the joys of having and caring for a childhood pet. Besides being a friend and confidant, pets can teach our children important lessons about responsibility, compassion, and empathy.

But how do you know if your child is ready for a pet? Or which type of pet to adopt? And how do you guide your kids in learning about pet care? These are all key questions to consider when it comes to raising the next generation of responsible pet owners.

It’s also important to remember that, regardless of your child’s age, any pet you adopt is a family pet, and not just your child’s pet. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a family to raise a pet. Never leave your pet’s life dependant on the actions (or inactions) of your child after all kids and pets go hand in hand.

Kids and Pets, A Lifetime of Love

Regardless of your child’s age, there are a number of ways your child can help care for your pet. Here are some general guidelines as to how:

Toddlers  – Toddlers can help parents and siblings with simple chores, such as brushing, walking, and learning the proper way to give your pet a daily treat. Learning about gentle touching and giving an animal his or her space is key at this age.

Young Children –3-5 year olds are beginning to learn about compassion and empathy and are probably more capable of “gentle touch” than toddlers. With the help of an adult, younger kids can be involved in basic pet care such as filling water and food containers, gentle brushing, and feeding daily treats.

Older Children  – Kids ages 5-10 can be given a much wider range of responsibilities such as feeding and watering, cleaning cages with adult help, exercising/playing with dogs and cats, and assisting parents in advanced grooming tasks such as nail clipping and teeth brushing as well as helping to clean up dog and cat waste.

Teenagers – Responsible teens can take on the majority of pet care duties from walking dogs to cleaning cages/litter boxes to brushing teeth and other grooming tasks with little to no supervision. Many teenagers enjoy learning about pet behavior and can be encouraged to work with pets on learning new commands, agility training, etc.

Last, But Not Least…

Our kids learn by watching us! Modeling responsible, compassionate, respectful pet ownership will help cultivate a lifetime love of animals for your children and the generations to come.

Your team at Summeridge Animal Clinic cares about the two- and four-legged members of your family, and we’re here to support you and your children on your journey toward pet ownership. Please don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or concerns regarding your kids and pets!