Sooner or later the question arises in every family: “Please can I have a pet?” Especially when your child has already had positive experiences with animals, this question will probably be in your ears for hours. When asked whether you should grant them this wish, there is no general answer. It depends on various factors. To help you decide, we have listed some key considerations before you make any decisions…

Child with cat

Pros:

  • Pets enrich children's lives and they learn life lessons

Growing up with a pet can be a very enriching experience for your child, as they learn from an early age to take responsibility and show consideration and empathy for others. You give them a loyal friend by their side who will go through thick and thin with them. Of course, it is also interesting and instructive for your offspring when it grows up with an animal. They can learn why dogs wag their tail and why do cats purr? They also learn to be patient when they want the dog or cat to come to them. It is all the nicer when it is rewarded by a cuddle from its four-legged friend. It makes sense to involve your child in caring for the animal right from the start. In this way it learns that it has to look after an animal and develops a sense of responsibility.

  • Enhanced mental, emotional and physical wellbeing

Animals have been found to have a very positive effect on a person’s mental health. Stroking and interacting with an animal can help to reduce anxiety levels and endorphins are released after coming into contact with a loving pet. Having a pet such as a dog that needs regular exercise can also lead to a more active lifestyle for your child, as they learn that they need to take the dog for a walk in order to keep it healthy and happy.

Cons:

  • Pets aren’t just cuddly toys and require a lot of looking after

It’s important that you are aware of YOUR responsibility towards this living being as well. Even if your child has assured you that they will take care of it every day, you as a parent always bear responsibility. After all, an animal needs to be cared for when it is sick or when your child is busy with other things or if they become uninterested with the new companion. Pets are a long-term commitment, so it’s important that you make the decision on whether you want to take in a new roommate together and not only make it dependent on the wishes of the child.

  • Choosing the right pet for the family

You have to bear in the mind the extra obstacles that come with owning a pet. You should find out in advance about the needs and animal welfare of certain pets before choosing.

Space - do you have enough extra space for a pet? Guinea pigs and rabbits are popular pets for small children, as they don’t require too much space, however they do like a partner as they are social animals so do you have the capacity for two pets? Dogs on the other hand require lots of space.

Preference - You may decide on getting a dog or cat as they are classed as ‘cuddly’ animals, however this isn’t always the case. Certain cats & dogs don’t like to be cuddled and your child should be old enough to understand this and not to force the animals to cuddle as that could be dangerous for your child if this aggravates the animal.

Money - Finally, you need to be aware that animals do cost money. You have to be prepared for vet bills, food supplies, animal accessories such as leads, poo bags, litter trays, bedding etc etc. The list goes on, so please consider this point as well before agreeing to a pet.

If a pet fits into your family planning and everyone is behind it, it can be a great opportunity to grow together as a family and to take responsibility together in this step. You will surely get a lot of fantastic memories with your new roommate for free.