The other day, my two-year-old was watching some of his favorite characters build a dog house. He asked me if we could make a dog house too and I told him we didn’t need a dog house because we didn’t have a dog. His response, “Well, we just have to go get one.”
While I didn’t go into detail about how I am not a dog person nor mention that we would never get him a dog, I did use it as an opportunity to talk with him about the responsibilities of pet ownership. I also began to think about when I might be ready to get him his own pet.Getting a pet is a big deal for a family. Even if you already have pets, a new pet gives you another mouth to feed and another being to clean up after and give attention to. If your child wants a pet, he must be ready to help fill those needs. Toddlers and preschoolers get bored with things quickly, so getting a pet that requires minimal care and attention, such as a guinea pig, hamster or goldfish, may be a better option than a puppy or kitten.
When your child turns 6 or 7 and is able to take care of a dog or a cat, you still need to make sure he is ready. Before adopting a pet, take a trial run by borrowing a friend’s cat or dog for a few days. If your child handles feeding, playing with and cleaning up after the animal well, it’s time to start looking. If your child shows little interest in the animal or neglects to take responsibility, it may be time to hold off on getting a new pet.