Deciding whether to bring a new pet into your home and children’s lives can be tricky. With so many pets to choose from, and massive pros and cons for each of them, how can you possibly know what will be best? This short yet super helpful guide, of course!
Kid’s age: 0 – 2 years old
Suggested pet: A dog
Dogs are great – there’s no question about that. But, are they great for kids? Uh, yeah they are! If you properly prepare your beloved pooch for the arrival of your new bub, chances are they’ll be best friends in no time. That’s not to say that bringing a dog into a house with a newborn, or vice versa, won’t have its challenges, and there are definitely some rare instances where it just doesn’t work out and you end up having to give your baby away (we’re kidding). If you’ve got a dog already and are expecting a non-fur-baby soon, be sure to do your research and put in the hours making sure your pup is prepared for the new addition to your family – and that you’re prepared to continue to give your dog the same loving care that you gave them pre-bub. And if you’ve already got a young child and are looking into getting a dog, make sure you’re as educated as possible on the merits of different breeds, but also look into getting a rescue, too (they’re not all vicious). But if the internet has taught us anything, it’s that babies and dogs can develop a pretty tight bond – dogs are often a kid’s first best friend – and score you tonnes of views when you film evidence of this bond and put it up online!
Kid’s age: 2 – 5 years old
Suggested pet: A cat
Got a toddler or young child and thinking about adding a pet into the mix? A cat could be your best bet. Adult cats are an appropriate size for kids, as they’re unlikely to scare them or act too boisterous, but aren’t small enough to be easily squished by an enthusiastic three-year-old. Again, opting for an adult rescue could be your best bet – kittens may already feel anxious in new places, never mind new places with a rambunctious kid. Also, unlike dogs, cats are great at finding quiet spots to retreat too when things are getting a bit hectic – which might not be great news for your overly-affectionate child, but will absolutely decrease the risk of your cat lashing out or feeling on edge. Also, teaching your child to respect their animal’s boundaries and have empathy for other creatures is a wonderful skill. If you’re introducing a cat into a home with young kids, make sure you give the cat plenty of kid-free space to relax in and teach your kids the basic understanding that cats have feelings, too.
Kid’s age: 5 – 8 years old
Suggested pet: Guinea pigs
If you’ve never owned guinea pigs, you no doubt know a family who do. And, chances are, your kids have probably left that house begging you to let them buy some of their own. But before you brush off their requests for the 88,000th time, have you stopped to think about the good that could come from introducing some guinea pigs into your home? First of all, they’re adorable – that’s kind of a given. But they’re also great pets for your kids to learn about responsibility, care and empathy. By the time your children have hit the 5+ age group, they’re safely out of the ‘accidental squishing’ years – they’ve got a relatively good understanding of empathy (aka, “would I like to be grabbed constantly, flung around or squeezed tightly?”) and have the fine-motor skills to match. They’re also able to grasp the concept of responsibility for another living being and should quickly learn that if they’re not the ones feeding their beloved pets, no one is. And speaking of food, guinea pigs are great for waste, too – any spinach or other fresh produce that’s on its last legs will be gratefully gobbled up by your little piggies. Plus, these little guys breed like rabbits, giving you an easy ‘in’ to that ‘circle of life’ chat.
Kid’s age: 8 – 10 years old
Suggested pet: Fish
They’ve (somewhat unfairly) been labelled the ‘most boring’ of all household pets, but a fish could be the easiest way to satiate your children’s constant nagging to get them a pet of their own. They’re no doubt cooler than sea monkeys, and what pet fish may lack in personality, they more than make up for in other areas – from their stress-reducing powers to the small amount of space they take up. By the time your kids are 8 and older, they’ve hit that sweet spot of wanting more responsibility and being perfectly capable of empathy. The idea of having their own pet in their own room is pretty much the coolest, and you can capitalise on this by setting up some strict cleaning and feeding ground rules for them to stay on top of – the fish should be fed a small amount once or twice a day and the tank should be cleaned once a week, so a schedule on the fridge can help out a lot here.