The sheer pleasure that children get from a having a pet in the household is impossible to measure but there are many significant benefits for introducing a pet into your day-to-day life.
Firstly, it doesn’t really matter what type of pet you have, because even a goldfish can give children a sense of wonder, especially when they are small. They don’t need a lot of looking after, your child can easily feed one and learn to help change the water. It’s also fun to add little underwater objects and – with a small aquarium – some attractive aquatic plants.
Canine or feline?
Cats and dogs do coexist, often quite happily, so ask your child’s what they might like best. Dogs are harder work to look after than cats, but they are loyal, faithful and loving. Either pet is sure to bond with your child, though, and will provide companionship whenever needed.
Dogs are great for exercise. You have to walk them, so it’s the perfect time for the family to get out and about in local parks or onto the beach.
As your child grows up, they will do so more responsibly having experienced caring for a pet. Filling a food and water bowl is a good way to start early on, followed by helping to groom the pet and beginning to assist with cleaning its living area. Taking on responsibility and caring for another living creature makes a real difference to a child’s self-esteem. Do ensure you buy flea tablets for your dogs; prevention is far better than cure for these unpleasant biting creatures!
Cats are highly independent and if you are living a hectic lifestyle (which, with children, you probably will be) they can offer less trouble in terms of looking after but still provide delightful companionship. Fit a cat flap so it can come and go as it pleases, and encourage your child to stroke it and enjoy the relaxing feeling that comes with a deep, contented purr.
Learning for the future
As your child grows up, there are great opportunities to learn far more about different breeds of pet and get a real feel for natural history and the wider animal world.
Younger children may often start off with a cuddly rabbit or guinea pig, easy to look after and lovely for them to help feed, and of course it’s enjoyable stroking their soft fur. If you’re going to let any pet such as this, or indeed a dog, out into the garden then make sure it’s absolutely secure. Guinea pigs, in particular, have a habit of vanishing otherwise!
You could also consider gerbils or mice or even – when your child gets older – a reptile.
Pets can be a wonderful addition to a household, but work out what you can sensibly accommodate in terms of care and always try to talk to your child to explore what would be the best pet for the home.