How to choose a first pet for your child

Two children and their first pet - A dog, a Golden retriever an image for our article Choosing a first pet for your child
Photo by: Sabina Fratila on Unsplash

Choosing the first pet for your child can be hard. There is a lot to think about. In this article, we look at your options to make your decision easier

Pets are a great way to show your child how to care for something. Sometimes children need extra ways to learn how to be kind and gentle to others. You can teach them about the needs of the animal. Needs such as food, water and play. Then you can relate them to your child.

You may worry about how your child will treat the animal or if the animal will hurt your child. We will help you with the important decision of choosing your child’s first pet.

Which pet?

Families love pets. However, you may be struggling to decide which pet is right for your child and everyone else in the household. How old is your child? A 3-year-old may struggle to understand how long it takes to tame an animal and a bite could be very upsetting.

Equally, the animal may not understand or like constant tail pulling or rough stroking. It would definitely be better to wait until a child is older. This way they may show more empathy. This is a good idea before buying a pet that could bite your child.

You know your child and have a good idea when the time is right. Alternatively, you could buy an older pet that likes children. Older animals are usually trained and more comfortable around children.

Practical stuff

The cost of caring for a pet can be considerable, especially if it needs a lot of treatment at the vet. Generally smaller short-lived pets that don’t leave your home are cheaper than those mixing with other animals or who live longer.

Consider allergies, are you aware of any allergies in your family and friends? Can you spend some time with an animal to test this? Don’t underestimate how miserable an allergy can make someone.

You need to think about the time it can take to look after a pet. How much time do you have each week to care for and exercise a pet? Then you need to think about when you go away. Who will care for the pet when you are on holiday?

Space is also important and not how you might think. Outdoor space is good for dogs. But did you know that the guidance for keeping smaller animals has changed a lot in the last few years? Cages and run space for rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice or similar needs to be much bigger. This advice has changed to keep your pet happy and healthy

Getting to know the pet

How the pet will interact with your child is an important consideration. Goldfish offers little interaction and you can’t hold or play with them. You may prefer this if your child is not gentle enough to hold a hamster or you are concerned about a pet biting your child.

If your family want a more independent animal that requires less cleaning, then a cat may be a way to go. Remember though, kittens needs a lot more care (and training not to bite or scratch) than an older cat. Not all animals can cope with the energy and constant touching from children.

Probably the one thing that will make your decision easier is what pets you had as a child. You may already like a certain animal because of how it makes you feel and you know how to care for it. You may also have fond memories that will influence your decision. It’s quite possible that your child is similar to you and will like the same pet. For example, we all like small cute pets in our house.

Next steps

Spend some time visiting friends and their pets, talking to your child about what they like (if it isn’t a surprise gift). Take a trip to pet shops and look online. The RSPCA have expert advice that is searchable by an animal.

Write up a budget by researching pet supply stores online and read pages about the animal you are considering. Decide how your life can adapt to looking after a new pet and who could do which tasks.

It’s worth noting that you may need to assume you will be doing the majority of the care for the animal. If it’s going to be more of a family pet that will be okay. Your child may lose interest in looking after it once the “honeymoon period” has ended. They could be too young to take on this responsibility of looking after an animal. Gifting the first pet to your child is a wonderful and rewarding thing and worth the time spent researching it ?

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