When is the right time to get your child a pet? It really depends on how mature your child is.
Do you know why there are a lot of animals in pet shelters right now? One of the reasons are strays that keep breeding, yes. But it’s also because some parents choose to buy a pet for their child from pet farms, the child eventually doesn’t take care of it or doesn’t want it anymore, and it ends up in the pound or in animal shelters.
And even if your child decides to keep it, there are instances where a kid is not ready to take care of a pet and it dies out from sickness or mistreatment. The point is, some kids are just not emotionally ready or capable of a pet, and you can’t buy an animal just to make them happy. So, if your child asks for a pet or you’re considering getting them one for the holidays, take note of the following tips and see if they’re ready for one.
Don’t Give Your Child a Pet if They’re 3 to 4 Years Old
Children under the age of five are still not emotionally developed. This means that three and four-year-olds cannot control their anger and aggression impulses. When they get frustrated with a pet, they are more likely to lash out or harm the pet, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. This may not only harm the pet, it could agitate the pet and cause them to aggressively retaliate, harming your child.
The same also applies to older children. If your child shows abuse towards other animals or has a poor time controlling their emotions, gets angry at the slightest problem, or appears to have an emotional problem, they may still be unfit to have a pet.
Don’t Give Young Children a Pet If You’re Not Ready to Shoulder Responsibility
While some parents allow pets on the condition that they are the child’s responsibility, we can’t deny that we have to play a role in taking care of the pet once children have it. You can make your child fill the food and water bowl, but you also have to actively check to make sure they’re doing it and not letting the pet starve.
Children are easily distracted, and they’ll forget to do things such as walk the dog, clean the litterbox, or any task they need to do once they have a pet. If your child is young, you may need to perform the heavier tasks, though older children can be responsible enough to handle these tasks.
Some kids may also be incapable of handling some tasks. For example, they can’t observe signs that their pet is sick, nor are they capable of bringing their pet to the vet on their own. No matter how much of the responsibility you put on your child, you and the rest of the household should be prepared to be jointly responsible for the newest addition to your household.
Buy a Pet Only If You Know They Want One
If you’re buying your child a pet simply because you think the surprise will look good on their birthday or Christmas photos, you’re better off buying them a dog stuffed toy in your local toy store. If you buy a pet without knowing if they want one, you risk that pet living in a home where they’re unwanted, or you may be forced to put that pet in a pound or shelter, where they may be euthanized simply because the person who bought them didn’t want to keep them.
If you want to surprise your child, wait for them to express interest in having a pet. If they talk about getting a pet often or have asked you many times if they can get one and you know they’re mature and capable of handling a pet, that’s when you can surprise them. Most kids express a desire to own a pet after the age of 5, but you really have to gauge their readiness and whether your kid and the rest of your home are ready for a pet.
Your Child Understands the Tasks of Raising a Pet
Your child may only be interested in a dog because they see pictures of dogs online and think dogs are so cute and they want one. Or they see their favorite TV characters have a dog of their own and want to go on adventures with their dog. But owning a pet has more responsibilities than just basking in your pet’s cuteness, and while everyone will play a role in welcoming your child’s pet, they need to understand that a pet is not a short-term wish fulfillment.
Let your child understand that a pet is not a toy that breaks after a few uses. Pets have life and can die from sickness or if they are mistreated poorly. They will be cute, but cleaning after them, feeding them, and taking care of them will not be easy. And when your child gets bored or grows impatient of having to take care of a pet, they cannot simply choose to send it away.
Don’t ever let your child think that sending away a pet because they’re bored and tired of raising a pet is okay. Hundreds of dogs and cats are deliberately lost, killed or sent to shelters to be abandoned and maybe later euthanized because some kid couldn’t handle the responsibility of the pet they asked for.
You and the rest of the family may have to shoulder the responsibility, but by doing so instead of getting rid of the pet, you’re showing your child that responsibilities aren’t going to disappear just because they grew tired of your pet. Though your child is most likely going to outlive their pet, you need to let them know from the beginning that this is a long-term commitment.
Don’t get your child a pet if you feel that they aren’t mature yet. Make sure they truly want the pet and are ready for the responsibility of being a pet owner.