How to Know if Your Child Can Handle a Family Dog or Cat

If you have children and are thinking it is finally time for a family pet, here are a few questions to ask to know if your family is ready:

Does Your Child Have the Time?

From soccer practice to band camp, parents love to keep kids busy, and for good reason. But if your child is maxed out with extracurriculars, it is not a great idea to add on the responsibility of a pet. Even if your child is eager for a cat or dog, it’s important to evaluate if she has the time to feed, walk, and spend time with a new pet.

Does Your Child Respect Animals?

Just wanting an animal isn’t enough, your child must understand how to appropriately interact with them as well. This means knowing how to speak to animals, handle them when they misbehave, and knowing when it’s time to leave them alone. If your child shows signs of being too rough with an animal, it’s best to hold off until it is understood how to better behave with a pet.

Is Your Child Afraid of Animals?

Bringing a pet into the house is not a good way to make a child overcome their fear of animals. That’s a surefire way to make a phobia worse and end up with the unpleasant task of returning an animal to the shelter. Avoid these mistakes by first helping your child grow accustomed to the pets of others.

Your child can spend time with the cats and dogs of friends until she understands that there is nothing to fear. If your friends or other family members don’t have any pets, take weekend visits to the animal shelter.

Does Your Child Already Have Household Responsibilities?

Kids who help out around the house understand how to follow instructions and know that they have obligations that they’re responsible for. This is great training for the possibility of taking care of a family pet one day. Though very young children cannot be the main caretakers of a family pet, if they are prepared to fulfil smaller tasks like filling the food bowl or putting away the cat toys, they may still be ready for a pet.

Owning a pet is a rewarding experience and can further teach your child how to be responsible. However, all adults in the family should be aware that the responsibility ultimately falls on them and even if the child is eager for a cat or dog, if the adults are not ready then it is not the right time for a pet.