Like any other skill, children can learn to be excellent pet owners. With a combination of the
right guidance and the perfect animal, your kids will learn how rewarding it is to keep pets.
They’ll also form an understanding of what a significant responsibility it is.
No matter your child’s age, teaching them how to care for their pets properly is vital. They’ll need to learn what it takes to house, feed, and keep their furry (or feathery or scaly) friend entertained.
Talk About Proper NutritionEspecially with pets like cats and dogs, kids may feel tempted to give lots of treats. Discussing healthy treats—and moderation—is a smart idea. But make sure kids understand that many table scraps aren’t always healthy for canines or felines.
Explain to young kids that the wrong food can hurt their animals’ tummies. Older kids can research what foods are suitable for their new friend and practice recognizing how much is too much.
You can also explain that some pets benefit from extra nutrition. For example, dogs can enjoy better health by taking a probiotic that supports their digestive and immune systems. Researching online reviews and guides, as well as talking to your vet, ensures you’re getting the best probiotic for your pup’s needs.
Learn About Appropriate Pet Care
Caring for a pet properly is also crucial for young pet owners. Kids should recognize that taking dogs on walks (and out for bathroom breaks), providing cats with litter boxes, and cleaning small animals’ cages are essential to their health.
Children as young as two can help with pet care like providing food and water, while older kids can help with bathing and grooming plus going for walks (for pets that require it). You can even assign older kids to research and read about the pet they want and then report back.
Kids also need to know that all animals have germs, so cleaning up is crucial, especially with pet rodents.
Understand Pet BehaviorWhether you have a large dog or a small rodent as a family pet, your children need to recognize normal animal behavior and respond appropriately. For example, all types of animals prefer to be approached from the front, not behind.
Instruct kids on how to approach their small furry friends from the front—and handle them carefully by scooping, not grabbing, Francis Veterinary Hospital confirms.
With dogs, while the Spruce Pets notes that training your pup is a must, your kids also need instruction. Knowing how to pet a dog gently, including not pulling on their ears or tails, is the first step.
You should also let kids know that many pets don’t enjoy loud noises or when people don’t respect their personal space—especially while they’re eating.
Best Pets for Kids
Nearly any animal can make a fantastic pet for children if they learn proper care and handling. But these pets are helpful “starter” animals that are easier to care for, even for younger kids.
FishChoosing a fish as a first pet can delight children of all ages, and their care is relatively minimal. Kids can help feed their fish, monitor water temperature and cleanliness, and observe fishy behavior for hours.
A Family DogPuppies typically top children’s wish lists. And a family dog can be a great first pet if you select a breed and temperament that’s a good fit for your family. Animal Planet’s dog breed selector factors in size preferences, the animal’s energy level, your time constraints, grooming preferences, and other details to recommend suitable breeds.
Low-Maintenance RodentsMany parents prefer animals that live in cages because they’re easier to care for. And some rodents make ideal first pets—such as guinea pigs, rats, and hamsters. All three categories include animals that enjoy socializing—and plenty of snacks.
Whatever type of pet your family chooses, helping your children remain involved in their care can prove challenging. But with the right approach—and plenty of pet-specific knowledge—you can encourage your kids to be active and attentive pet owners.