So your child wants a pet of his/her very own. Are you sure you are ready to handle it? Is he/she?
Infants can’t handle any sort of pet. They aren’t old enough to take care of one. You will have to supervise the interaction between your child and you.
A toddler will pull an animal’s tail; try to pick it up and squeeze it. You will have to supervise their together time and if you allow the child to help with feeding and cleaning you have to supervise the work, too.
A guinea pig is a recommended pet for a child from 3-5. You should still supervise the time your child spends with the animal. They like to be held and are small enough to be held by a little person. You will have to take care of feeding and cleaning the cage.
A child can handle taking care of a fish in a bowl. He/she can feed the fish and talk to it but you, the adult, will have to clean the bowl.
Children are ready to take care of a dog or cat around 12. By this age, they can clean the litter box, walk the dog, make certain the animal has food and water. When your children are older teens remember that they continue to take care of the animal but when they go away to college it will become your job.
People often give baby rabbits and chicks to children for Easter. This is not a good idea. Children have a very short attention span and do not understand how fragile these animals are. I would not let anyone give a child a pet without first talking to me.
A pet is a great way to teach a child responsibility but perhaps you might start with a virtual pet. Virtual pets can either be small and portable or on the computer. They have to be housed, fed, watered and walked. If you do not do your job, the pet will die; just like in real life.
If your child wants a pet you might arrange for him/her to help out in a pet shop or at a shelter. Even a child as young as ten can help with food and water and exercising the animals. A very careful child might be able to assist with bathing or combing and brushing an animal. It is a good way to learn before you bring a pet into your house. If you do not want your child doing work in one of these venues perhaps you could ask if he/she could assist a neighbor, friend, or relative with their pet temporarily.
Children and pets form a lifelong friendship. Dogs and cats sleep with their child owner and would willingly give their lives for him/her. A pet can be a constant guardian for your child. A dog is a good motivational tool if your child is not an outdoors person. Having to take the dog for a walk will get him/her out of the living room and away from the television. Having the responsibility of a pet teaches discipline. The child learns that certain things must be done at certain times for the good of the animal.
Pets can be good for certain medical conditions of all members of the house and yet some children are denied pets because of allergies. Research to see what pet your child’s allergy will allow you to get.
Some children, usually the older ones, want exotic pets. I am not certain that any child is mentally ready to care for an exotic animal so if you, the parent, aren’t in for 100%, maybe you had better veto the idea before he goes to the pet store and orders his tarantula or his python. Lately, geckos have become the pet du jour. The one you get will not be like the gecko on the commercial. He will be unable to communicate with your child and the child will have to make certain it gets its special insects or other food.
I cannot imagine allowing my child to bring home a hissing cockroach as a pet but that’s just me.