Help to choose a pet for your child

Help to choose a pet for your child

Looking after a pet can teach your child important life skills, but it is not a decision to rush into. Vet Marc Abraham has advice to help you make the right choice

Considering a new family pet? Looking after a pet can teach a child responsibility, the importance of good diet and hygiene, as well as empathy and love. But all pets require massive commitment so don’t take on more than you can manage.

Is now the best time?

Kids invented pester power so don’t be bullied into impulsive decisions. Consider family lifestyle as well as their age. Being out at work every day won’t suit most potential pets, so carefully research their needs before committing. If nobody’s around to look after your pet then don’t get one. Your child’s maturity plays a major part as they’ll need to respect their pet at all times.

What type of animal makes the best family pet?

With so many different species available choosing one is often determined by preference, allergies, and living arrangements (for example, whether you have a garden or not). Popular pets such as dogs, cats and rabbits are common for a reason – think carefully before choosing rare exotic species with hard-to-deliver needs. Fish are relatively easy to feed and keep, but remember it will probably be you who’ll end up cleaning out that tank. Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice and rats all need feeding, watering, and cleaning, with small children needing supervision to prevent hurting or dropping them. Lizards, tortoises, and parrots all make good pets and can live very long lives.

Aren’t rabbits the “classic” children’s pet?

Rabbits have more nutritional, physical, and emotional needs than once thought; usually disliking being picked up, cuddled, and finding loud noises stressful. Rabbits are better suited to older, calm, gentle children keen to interact at ground level.

Visit your local rescue centre

With so many healthy pets of all different shapes and sizes waiting in rescue centres, make sure this is your first port of call. Remember rescue pets are bargains – already neutered, microchipped, and often toilet trained.

Buying a cat or dog?

Be extremely careful as most retail outlets including pet shops, garden centres and websites, sell puppies and kittens born into bad conditions and sold without their mothers present so always contact the Kennel Club for responsible breeders and insist on seeing the puppy or kitten interacting with its mum. Cats are independent and fairly tolerant of children past the age of poking and squeezing.

Different breeds for different needs?

Some dog breeds appear more suited to children than others, with dogs bred for protective or herding skills not always ideal. There are many different breeds that make ideal family pets. Labradors, for example, are a good choice, thanks to their gentle disposition.

Can we really afford a pet?

All pets cost money. From vets fees and pet insurance, to food, bedding, toys, leads, and care when you are away. Factor in all potential costs into your household budget and make sure you can afford it. Sadly pets are abandoned every day with owners unable to look after them properly.

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