Kids and Housepets

Did you know that more than two-thirds of households in the United States have pets? According to data from the American Pet Products Association, 70% of households own at least one pet. This percentage has steadily increased over the years; in 1988, it stood at only 56%. The combination of pets and children is not only endearing but also a timeless classic. Seeing photographs of our furry companions alongside their young human counterparts never fails to evoke warmth and joy. Pets offer myriad benefits to children, enriching their lives in countless ways, and they also play a vital role in completing the fabric of our homes and families. Nonetheless, it’s important to consider various factors when integrating kids and pets, a topic explored by a local Hiram, GA veterinarian in this article.


What Positive Effects Does Pet Ownership Have on Children?


The positive impact of pets on children is vast, and you may be amazed by the difference they make!


  • Fewer Allergies: Children growing up with pets are less susceptible to allergies than those who aren’t. The presence of dust, fur, and dander serves to strengthen children’s immune systems.
  • Live-In Therapists: It’s remarkable how pets assist children in overcoming various obstacles, including autism. Furthermore, cherished pets such as Fluffy and Fido excel as empathetic listeners.
  • Mental Development: Preliminary studies suggest that pet ownership might aid in children’s cognitive development by helping them decipher nonverbal cues. Moreover, reading to pets such as Fido or Fluffy while learning to read can be advantageous, as pets are attentive and receptive listeners.
  • Stress Relief: It’s a common experience to find solace in the company of our furry friends after a difficult day. Whether it’s Fluffy’s purrs or Fido’s loving gestures, their presence provides a sense of comfort that resonates with children as well.
  • Social Skills: Through boundless love and affection, pets become steadfast companions, nurturing children’s social skills with their constant presence.
  • Responsibility: Kids, regardless of age, can engage in pet care, feeding fish or gently petting hamsters, imparting lessons on responsibility.
  • Complete the Family: Pets work their magic, turning mere houses into warm homes, fulfilling our families, and instilling in children a feeling of security.
  • Pets are excellent companions for play and rest, often becoming protective of children, offering another positive aspect.


What Age Should Parents Consider Getting a Pet for Their Child?


The readiness of children for pets varies due to individual differences in development. No set age applies to all kids; it depends on the child and the type of pet. However, it’s generally advisable to wait until a child is at least five years old. At this stage, children are still honing their motor skills and may exhibit occasional tantrums, which could distress pets.


Even with a young child, getting a pet is possible, but you’ll need to be prepared to handle most of the pet’s care. It’s vital to supervise interactions between the child and the pet closely.


Do Pets Contribute to Children’s Happiness?


Children find mood enhancement through pets’ playful behavior. The live-in entertainment provided by watching Fido chase a toy, Fluffy pounce on a catnip mouse, or smaller animals enjoying treats induces laughter and brings smiles to their faces.


Which Pet is Recommended as a Child’s First Companion?


Making a wise choice in selecting a pet can greatly impact the experience. Many individuals opt for smaller pets initially, such as gerbils, hamsters, or Guinea pigs. While these animals share similarities, they each possess unique characteristics. Guinea pigs, being the largest and most sociable, thrive on companionship and social interaction. In contrast, hamsters and gerbils, though small and adorable, are delicate creatures. Despite their generally gentle demeanor, they may nip if startled. Understanding these differences is vital when choosing a pet, considering factors like size, social needs, and temperament.


Goldfish or Betta fish are also appropriate options. Additionally, certain reptiles can be good pets for older children.


Dogs and cats are undoubtedly cherished companions, yet their compatibility with young children demands thoughtful consideration. Fluffy may feel uneasy around a loud or clumsy toddler, suggesting it may be prudent to wait until the Terrible Twos phase has subsided. Furthermore, Fido should be a dog with a calm and resilient nature.


Discover what works for you through research, and consult your Hiram, GA veterinarian for valuable advice.


What Factors Should I Consider to Decide When to Get My Child a Pet?


Is your child expressing a longing for a pet? While the allure of pet ownership is undeniable, it’s essential to navigate potential pitfalls wisely. Children’s interests can shift rapidly, leading to neglect of pet care responsibilities. However, several indicators can help gauge their readiness. Consistent pleas for a pet may signify genuine longing for an animal companion. Furthermore, observing their level of responsibility in daily tasks like chores and homework can offer valuable insights. Do they require frequent reminders, or do they exhibit initiative in completing their duties? By considering these factors, you can assess whether your child is equipped for the demands of pet ownership and make a thoughtful decision that aligns with their readiness and commitment to caring for a furry friend.


Take your child’s age into account. A mature ten-year-old could manage a puppy’s care alone, but a four-year-old likely isn’t ready for that level of responsibility.


How Might Children Contribute to Pet Responsibilities?


It’s important to establish the extent of your child’s responsibilities. Will they handle tasks like walking the dog or tending to the cat’s feeding and litter box duties? Supervision is essential, and you should be ready to step in if necessary. However, even young children can assist with pet care.


Here are several tasks kids can tackle:


  • Feed the pet
  • Fill water dishes
  • Clean cages/bowls
  • Change litter
  • Play with the pet
  • Brush the pet
  • Make DIY toys
  • Make DIY houses/furniture
  • Walk Dogs
  • Read to the pet
  • Help with training
  • Name the pet

Kids can help decide on the pet. For instance, if choosing a hamster, take your child to the pet store to select one.


How Can Safety Be Ensured When Kids and Pets Interact?


Put safety first. The most important aspect is choosing the right pet.


Here are a handful of additional tips:


  • Ensure your pet’s nails are trimmed to prevent scratches.
  • Ensure your pet receives regular check-ups from the vet.
  • Before and after any interactions with the pet or its belongings, ensure children wash their hands thoroughly.
  • Supervise interactions between kids and pets closely. Avoid leaving them alone until you’re certain they’ll be okay.
  • Help your child learn the basics of pet body language, such as understanding that a wagging tail signifies happiness in dogs but signals the opposite in cats.
  • Communicate the importance of treating pets with kindness and empathy. Like humans, they also deserve to be treated kindly!


For small pet interactions, recommend your child sits or kneels. This lessens the distance the pet could fall if it jumps or slips.


For additional questions or concerns, ask your veterinarian.


Having pets can be highly beneficial for children, teaching them about kindness, friendship, and empathy. Pets provide unconditional love and make fantastic playmates and cuddle buddies. However, it’s crucial to choose the appropriate pet and monitor interactions carefully.


Have questions about caring for your pet? Reach out to us at The Ark Animal Hospital in Hiram, GA, for assistance!

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