Choosing Your Child’s First Pet

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Children love animals, and in the majority of cases, the affection is mutual. There is something very special and touching about the bond that forms with a child and his or her pet –and pet ownership also provides some valuable life lessons relating to responsibility.

Research suggests that kids who grow up around pets mature more quickly and develop empathetic and caring characteristics more rapidly than those who do not.

That all sounds fantastic, but let’s not get carried away here. Kids are kids, and while they will ostensibly be responsible for caring for their pet, it is ultimately down to the parents to oversee everything and make sure both the pet and its young custodian are safe and happy.

It’s also up to you to make sure the practicalities of exercise, accommodation and feeding are all in place – and, of course, to actually go about getting the pet. So which will you choose?

A kid and his or her dog

Children’s television and literature is full of stories of children and dogs – perhaps Timmy and Lassie being the most famous example. Fiction is one thing, but to make it a reality takes work and requires everyone to follow ground rules. In some ways, dogs and children are not so different. In both cases, if they are well brought-up and understand boundaries, they can be an absolute joy. If they are spoilt and allowed to run riot, though, they are no fun at all.

Get it right, and your child and dog will become inseparable friends and playmates. Just make sure the garden is secure to keep both safe, and always fit a beware of the dog sign to deter anyone from opening the front gate.

An adorable kitten

Poet Ogden Nash wrote:

The trouble with a kitten is that

Eventually it becomes a cat

While dogs are the Peter Pans of the pet world, and will still behave like delinquent children when they are in their dotage, cats can be more independent. However, that doesn’t mean they are a bad choice. Their characteristics mean that cats are less demanding of your attention, but at the same time they can be loving and playful –it just has to be on their terms. Cat owning children learn all about patience and understanding the feelings of others!

A rabbit – the ideal pet?

A dog needs lots of care and exercise, and while a cat is more independent, it will still need time and attention to become a socialized family member. A rabbit, on the other hand, is a great choice if your child is old enough and responsible enough to do the bulk of the caring.

As long as they are regularly handled from a young age, rabbits are sociable and friendly pets, and they are simple to care for. With work, they can even be trained to use a litter box, and can run around the house, but keep in mind that they will chew wires and cables given half a chance – so a hutch is essential for periods when the rabbit is left unsupervised.  

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