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If you were to Google “videos of children and pets”, you’d be met with a barrage of search results that highlight the special bond between animals and their younger masters. You could go all day watching those videos. Some of them are funny, while others just end up triggering a rush of emotions. The bond between pets and children is special and those videos can convince you to go out and get a pet right away.
However, that’s where you need to pause and think things out. Getting a pet for your children isn’t a joke. You’re talking about handing over a living, breathing creature to a child, who probably isn’t old enough to use the bathroom by himself/herself.
That brings up the question – at what age would it be okay to get your children a pet?
It All Depends on the Child
There isn’t an exact answer to this question. At the end of the day, it all depends on your child. However, there are guidelines and it is better to stick to them if you aren’t a 100% sure.
According to Veterinarian Dr. Butch Schroyer from The Lexington Humane Society and ASPCA, parents need to make sure their child is mature enough to handle a pet. In general, children over the age of 6 are considered mature enough to care for a pet, provided there is adult supervision.
A pet is an animal at the end of the day and Dr. Schroyer strongly believes that parents should observe caution when leaving their child with an animal. Children below the age of two shouldn’t ideally be left alone with pets.
If you already have a pet in the house, then a gradual introduction is in order. You need to make sure your pet can handle the child’s reaction. Toddlers are known for grabbing limbs and fur, which can be annoying to the pet. In fact, it can turn out to be downright dangerous if the animal is apprehensive about the baby. So, take things one step at a time.
Types of Pets
A dog or a cat may be too much of a responsibility for younger children. So, ASPCA advice getting a goldfish, gerbil, or guinea pig. They are easy to take care of because very little effort is required and that’s a good thing for young children.
As for children that are in middle-school or in their pre-teen years, dogs and cats are absolutely fine. In fact, pre-teen children should be given the responsibility of walking and cleaning after such pets.
However, do consider the size of the pet as well. Obviously, an 8 or 10-year-old will have issues with larger animals. So, it’s better to stick to smaller ones. If you have teenagers, a large pet shouldn’t be any trouble.
So, it all boils down to your child’s individual maturity and also, your involvement as a parent. Parents must supervise the interaction between pets and small children. An animal is an animal at the end of the day and children must be taught to respect their pet’s boundaries.