This is a guest article.
There must be a rule written down somewhere that spells out in big, bold letters that kids love animals. Whether it is the eager puppy following them around the yard, the aloof kitten watching them carefully or any number of domesticated or wild animals that your kids can see and interact with, kids will play with animals.
Pets can be a boon and joy for a family. Kids and adults are happier around animals.
But when it comes time for picking a family pet, there are certain critters that just won’t make the cut. Spiders don’t make particularly good pets, although I know families with pet tarantulas, and can’t even be considered. Rhinoceroses, although fascinating, would make lousy pets. The aquarium to hold sharks would be prohibitively expensive unless the bread winner of the family is some kind of super villain then it would be okay, but it can safely be left off the list.
Great pets for great kids
That leaves the old standbys. Puppies, kittens, guinea pigs, hamsters, goldfish and small, easy to care for pets that don’t have a taste for raw flesh or a penchant for poisoning everyone in their sleep. (Yeah, go ahead and cross venomous snakes off the list, too.)
There are good reasons that these animals constantly make the short list for favorite pets and it’s not just because they are domesticated. We have domesticated cows and sheep, as well, but you don’t see a lot of people walking them in the park.
Furry, relatively small and friendly animals are hits with kids because they get along so well with them. Either protectively (think dogs), complacently (think goldfish) or because they give children something to watch and practice their responsibility on (think gerbils, hamsters, and kittens). Most of these pets can survive with small amounts of benign neglect.
Of course, this isn’t espousing the abandonment of animals but teaching responsibility can be difficult in youngsters. Allowing a child to take care of a pet can be the first step in teaching them the importance of filing obligations that they will carry through their entire lives.
Healthy pets are good pets
Although feeding, walking and taking care of their pet’s needs are good starting points for children, ensuring the health needs for their pets is the responsibility of the parents. They cannot expect young kids to understand the importance of heartworm shots, flea collars, and dips, or spaying their pets.
Involve your children in these activities, of course. Let them feed their dog his Glyco Flex chewable vitamin but do not make them responsible for ordering or monitoring their puppy’s need for it. Medicines, like veterinarian visits, are the responsibility of the adult, not the child. This works with all pets and all medical concerns.
Many of us had pets as children and many of our first life lessons were learned watching or taking care of these non-human friends and family members. Some of the most enduring lessons from childhood come from the care of our first pets. Passing those lessons on to our children is an important part of being a parent.
Pets, no matter what kind they are, are part of you and your child’s family. Helping these pets through their lives can have a profound effect on your child’s life and character.