Pets and Young Kids5:33 PM
Taking care of a pet is not easy even for adults. The responsibility of taking care of another living is not something to be taken lightly as in a game. We can just imagine what challenges await young children aged from 3 to 5 who decide to take on the responsibility of taking care of a pet.
Recommended Pets for Young Children
When considering buying a pet for young children, there are a lot of possibilities being offered by experts including but not limited to hamster, mouse, specialty rat, gerbil, guinea pig, budgerigar,fish, turtle, rabbit,chicken, cat, dog, and pony. There are many other varieties of birds and small animals that may fit the bill as loving companions of young children in their pre-school age.
Although the temperament of most animals cannot be the same at all times, most of these suggested animals are small, sociable, entertaining, tame, and gentle. We would also notice that most of them can be put in cages when needed so as to provide young pet owners reasonable control while they take care of their pets. The rabbit, chicken, cat, dog, and pony are actually more fit as pets for older children since the responsibility is bigger, not to mention the size of the pet.
How to Determine Readiness of Child to Take Care of Pets
Not because children want their parents to buy them a pet doesn't necessarily mean they are ready. The general rule is that children who are not yet able to take reasonable care of themselves should wait a while longer. That said, young children will never be fully ready for the responsibility of pet ownerhips thus parents are expected to lend their full support to their young children.
Children who are considering to get a pet should at least understand the concept of not hurting animals. Their is great risk in pet ownership for children who are not yet able to control their excitement as they may either end up hurting their small pets or being hurt by bigger ones. Constant guidance by parents is still a necessity during this stage. It is a mistake to leave very young children alone with their pets.
Benefits and Risks of Pet Ownership at a Young Age
The primary benefit of pet ownership for young children is the opportunity to learn first-hand how it is to be responsible for another living thing. Taking care of the daily needs of pets in food, cleaning, and other necessities provide valuable learning that cannot be obtained from reading books. Children also learn the value of companionship and nurturing.
Taking care of animals may carry certain health risks including allergic reactions to animal hair, infections from exposure to animal "poop", and other physical harm such as bites and scratches from animal attack, whether provoked or unprovoked. There is also a possibility that the responsibility of taking care of the animals gets transferred to parents when the child totally gives up on the idea.
Due to my son's long-standing problem with allergic rhinitis, we never considered getting a dog or cat as a pet. We opted for lovebirds and goldfishes instead with the rationalization that our children are better off with minimized contact with their pets while still allowing them to feel a sense of responsibility. The pigeon pictured above with my daughter came to us when my daughter was only about a month old so in a sense they are of the same age. We got it from my sister-in-law's wedding which was almost eight years ago.
My children have lost several lovebirds and fishes in their attempts to take care of pets. Twice we came home to toppled cages with no birds in sight and thrice we came home to dead fishes who apparently jumped out from the fish bowl. We took the pigeon in at their insistence, probably in frustration with their earlier attempts and so we did. However, because of the common health advisory with respect to the risk of coming in contact with the bird "poop" , the cleaning part became my husband's responsibility.
I wouldn't know if they would have the chance to have bigger pets in the future. As for now, they have one pigeon to take care of. It's funny how the pigeon acts like a dog greeting its master whenever my children come home from school. Apparently, my children's efforts have paid off.
That said, I think children can learn much from taking care of a pet but it is best done when they are ready.