Should Kids Have Pets?


What To Do With The Kids® asked adults if kids should have pets and if so, at what age should the kid be and what type of pet is best.  Parents submitted over 600 responses through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and by email.  Although every single submission suggested that having a pet was good, the vast majority were more concerned about how the parents and the rest of the family would react to having a pet in their house.  Although the kid would be responsible, experience has shown that that is not always the case.  Here’s what they said:

  • If the family already has a pet, the child (hopefully) will understand that the pet must be looked after and that feeding and caring for the pet is a regular routine shared by the family.
  • Parents must assume that THEY will be looking after the pet and that IF the kid does take responsibility then it’s a bonus.  If the parent does not have the time or interest of looking after a pet, then they shouldn’t get one.
  • Parents must also consider the expense associated with getting a pet.  A few examples:

– Equipment:  Cage and accessories, toys, crate or bed, litter box or dog house.
– Veterinary Fees:  Check-ups, vaccinations, injuries and medications.
– Food:  Regular pet food, specialized and dietary food, treats.
– Time:  Walking the dog, cleaning the cage, tank or litter box.
– Noise:  Barking, bird singing, nocturnal wheel running.
– Location:  Is there enough room for a dog, a cage or tank?
– Travel:  Will the pet travel with you or will you need a sitter or boarding service.

  • If the parents never experienced the joys of having a pet, starting with a lower maintenance pet would be advisable.  These include fish in small tanks or a caged bird such as a parakeet, finch or canary.

According to our submissions, the best age for a kid to have a pet starts at 5 years old.  The best pets for this age group are “lower” maintenance type such as fish, caged birds and caged animals such as gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs.  At the age of 8 years, pets such as puppies, kittens and rabbits are a good choice.

The overwhelming benefit of having a pet is its ability to teach the kid responsibility.  There will be times when the kid is busy and just won’t feel like feeding or watering the pet but they must learn that if they don’t, the pet will suffer and may even die.  The kids will ideally learn that even if they don’t  feel or want to do something, they must if they value the pet.  In some cases however, the kid has lost all interest in the pet and the responsibility falls onto the parents to look after it.

Many submissions also noted that having a pet, especially a dog or cat, is beneficial to strengthening a kid’s immune system.

The biggest drawback however for kids, who are responsible pet owners, is when the pet dies.  Most parents use this time to explain life and death which may help them deal with death later on in life.   The benefit of having a pet however far outweighs the inevitable end.


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