Most children adore animals and find them fascinating, which is why, at some point in their young lives, many children request pets of their own. Caring for a pet can teach a child valuable lessons about responsibility, compassion, and empathy, but choosing the right pet requires striking a balance between your child’s ability to provide responsible care and your own levels of energy, free time, and money.
At Sunrise Boulevard Animal Hospital, we’re here to support your child’s journey into pet ownership, and our experts have compiled some helpful hints to keep in mind when selecting your child’s first pet.
Before heading to the pet store or animal shelter to choose your child’s first pet, here are some things to think about:
- Would a caged pet be best for your child?
- Does anyone in the household have allergies?
- If you’re considering a dog, do you have outdoor space?
- What is Plan B if your child loses interest or goes to college?
- Does your family budget allow for up-front costs, regular wellness care, and unexpected expenses if the pet becomes seriously ill or injured?
- Will the new pet be safe around any current family pets?
- If your child is considering an exotic pet, do you have access to more specialized veterinary care?
One Option: Start Small
If you’re looking for low-maintenance pets that are contained in habitats, guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils make good companions for young children who are mature enough to understand the importance of gentle handling. Make sure the child handles the animal only under adult supervision and remembers to feed and provide fresh water daily.
For kids with allergies, fish make perfect pets! These easy-to-care for pets are colorful and fun to watch. Your child will learn responsibility through feeding the fish and monitoring the aquarium temperature and cleanliness.
Nothing turns up the cuteness quotient like kittens! If your child can handle a bit more responsibility (and you don’t mind pitching in with litter box duties), adopting a feline friend is a fabulous choice. Cats are full of playful energy and enjoy a wide variety of indoor enrichment activities. Plus, your child won’t have to walk or bathe the cat, or take the cat outside when nature calls.
Dogs are affectionate, loyal, and overflowing with unconditional love, so it’s no surprise dogs are the number 1 companion pet in the United States. For older children who are able to walk a dog, take him outside to do his business, and assist with bathing and grooming, dogs make unforgettable first pets. Providing appropriate care for a dog does require plenty of adult supervision, so make sure you have time to house train a new dog and help your child with day-to-day tasks. As with cats, consider pet adoption from a local shelter.
We’re Here to Help
Choosing a child’s first pet is an exciting time! If your child chooses a new dog or cat, please contact us to schedule a wellness visit—it’s the perfect way to teach your child about the importance of proper veterinary care.