Is My Child Old Enough to Care For a Pet?

With proper training and ongoing experience, your child can care for a pet as well as you. However, it would be best if you share their pet care responsibilities until they’re old enough to do it without supervision.

Pets are like members of the family, but they also create a lot of work. If you have a family cat, you must regularly change their litter, feed them, and give them clean water. In addition, you must hold them when they’re feeling cuddly and let them walk all over you sometimes when you’re trying to watch TV. 

If you have a family dog, you must help keep him clean, provide a proper diet, take him for walks, and make sure someone performs pooper scooper duties. Pets also need periodic healthcare. In which case, they need an adult for that. 

It depends on your child’s age

In his Psychology Today article, “Pets for Children Really Are Worth the Trouble,” Dr. Kyle Pruett explains how caring for pets helps children learn about the world. Of course, that’s true for kids of all ages, but you still have to make decisions as to if and when your child is ready as a parent. 

Younger children can help with some tasks, but it’s ultimately your responsibility to make sure your pets get the proper care. For example, automatic pet feeders are great. But what happens if your family leaves town and your 10-year-old forgets to fill it? An incident like that can be stressful for you, your children, your pets, and everyone else.

Monitor your child’s pet care 

As your children learn and develop their pet-care skills, they need your supervision. It’s like cleaning their rooms or doing their laundry. So, of course, they need help in the beginning. But when they grow up learning to do their assigned tasks, they can take full responsibility at an earlier age than you might expect. 

Help them create a schedule

Children become easily distracted by playing, reading, studying, and interacting with friends. When they have so many other things to do, it’s easy to forget to care for a pet. You can encourage them to stay on track by helping them create a pet care schedule.

Make sure your children are safe

Young children don’t always recognize when a dog is stressed, scared, or feels threatened. It’s at these times they are likely to bite a child who only wants to play. You should know these critical facts from the AVMA infographic Dog Bites by The Numbers as a parent.

  • Any dog can bite.
  • 4.5 million dogs bite people every year.
  • Dogs bite children (under age 16) more frequently than anyone else. 
  • When a dog bites a young child, the injuries are often severe

Sometimes pets catch and spread diseases

The CDC has a long list of parasites, fungi, and bacteria that pets can pass along to their human family. These conditions usually affect children age five and under, older adults, and others with compromised immune systems. 

As children age, they’re not quite as susceptible to these conditions. However, when they’re young, you should consider doing the chores that might create a contamination problem. 

  • Change the litter box
  • Scoop up doggie doo-doo
  • Clean pet living areas

It’s up to you to teach your child proper pet care and animal safety. But, eventually, they will be able to do it all without your help.

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Contact us for more ideas about teaching your child to care for a pet. You can reach us at (860) 228-4324. Or visit our contact page.