Veterinary clinic advice: Is your child ready for pet ownership?

This veterinary clinic is often asked if kids and pets are a good mix. And how to determine when your children are ready to care, love and own a pet.

Pet ownership is a great way to teach your kids about animals and life. Not only do they learn about the pet, they also learn some great skills. Pet ownership introduces responsibility, thinking about others, problem solving and things like self-care to your child’s daily routine.

Many parents may hesitate about getting a pet due to worries about increased workload and wondering if it may be a phase. It might be hard to distinguish the reality from the romanticism.

That’s why we’re taking a look at ways you can see if your child is indeed ready for pet ownership and some of the deciding factors involved in choosing the right pet for your child.

Here’s our veterinary clinic guide to pet ownership for kids.

Which pet is right for your child?

veterinary clinic Fox valley animal hospital wahroonga

Photo by: Andrew Branch

At any given day at our veterinary clinic we see dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and all kinds of small and large family pets. It’s proof that pets are definitely not one size fits all!

Matching a pet to a family takes some consideration. You have to ensure that your new pet will fit with the existing family.

The first step is to sit down with your child, your partner and the rest of the family and ask the following questions:

  1. How much space have we got for a pet for sleeping, exercising and toileting?
  2. How often are we at home during the day, night and on weekends?
  3. Does our family exercise together on a regular basis?
  4. How active is our family’s lifestyle?
  5. Are we away on a regular basis for any reason?
  6. What does our daily routine look like?
  7. What kinds of pets and animals does our family like?
  8. Can we afford food, regular vet bills, toys and the essential items?

Once you understand how much space you have as well as whether your routine and personalities are compatible, then it’s time to consider the nitty gritty.

You can also call on us for advice if you need it. Not only from a veterinary clinic perspective, but from a pet owner’s perspective as well. We know both sides of the pet ownership coin!

Matching your child to the right family pet

Ask any veterinary clinic – a lot goes into choosing your family pet. You may have to think about the kinds of plants you have in the garden in relation to toxicity to cats or dogs. Or you may have Grandma visiting on a regular basis but know she has a fur allergy.

You also have to consider where you live, how permanent that arrangement is and whether the sort of pet you want is suitable.

Care is also an important consideration. Who will be in charge of feeding, cleaning and exercising your new pet? Is it something you can see them realistically doing for years to come?

All pets need love, enrichment, feeding, grooming and their areas maintained for their life. So it’s important to consider the life expectancy of the pet as well as your future plans.

As a veterinary clinic, we also know time is an important factor with considering any pet. Training a puppy into a happy, obedient dog takes months and even years.

Birds also require regular cleaning, training and interaction. Fish might seem like a simple solution, but they also need clean water and water that is the right temperature, Ph and oxygen level.

Reptiles require minerals, heat lamps and lighting setups. Cats require affection, feeding and their nocturnal habits supervised.

Pocket pets like rabbits and guinea pigs also need enrichment, clean areas, varied diets and live a surprisingly long time.

Try not to get caught up in the romantics and think critically about the situation. Think about the care duties involved, the exercise required and also how long your child will be around to care for the pet in question.

You’re always welcome to come in to the Fox Valley veterinary clinic and have a chat with one of our friendly vet nurses about what pet may be suitable.

Personality plays a role

An energetic child is probably going to be pretty bored with a turtle or a snail collection. But that doesn’t mean a dog is an automatic match by default.

Different breeds of dog can exhibit personalities that may or may not match your child’s lifestyle. For example, a Labrador or Retriever is a great companion for a child who loves playing ball, swimming and the great outdoors. They probably won’t be all that happy spending long afternoons playing Xbox. A greyhound however won’t mind chilling around the house at all.

A peppy Jack Russell, though small, requires a massive amount of play time and stimulation. Far much more than say a Great Dane or a Boxer or Irish Wolfhound.

An Artic Breed, Doberman, German Shepherd or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier will require strict training and lots of it in early life. Usually because a higher standard of behaviour keeps these breeds safer from the unfortunate myths that accompany certain breeds and breed specific legislation.

Cats are great companions, but they don’t fair that well with too small a child or too rough a child. A child intent on rough play can easily snap a leg or collar bone in a cat. So it’s important that your child is also mindful and respectful of animal bodies. And are of an age where they can understand the consequences of playing poorly with a pet.

Matching the type of pet, breed of pet and the pet’s personality to your child’s makes for a far more successful pet and child relationship. If you are unsure about the personality of particular animal types or breeds, make sure you do your research. Check the internet for advice- and of course, pop in on your Wahroonga veterinary clinic for extra info.

What sorts of traits do kids ready for pet ownership display?

It can be tough to tell if your child is truly ready for pet ownership. But there are a few things you can keep an eye out for that may show they are ready.

These include:

  • An independent interest in animals and pets in general. For example, reading about pets, watching documentaries and sharing facts about animals or an interest in visiting the veterinary clinic with other family pets you may have
  • Showing kindness and consideration to pets when your child encounters them in the street, at school and when visiting friends
  • The ability to take on responsibilities such as looking after other family members, completing chores and looking for the opportunity help out around the home
  • Actively seeking out opportunities to care for animals – such as fauna in the garden, the classroom pets, making their own pets from craft materials or befriending neighbourhood pets
  • Conversing, cuddling with and gravitating towards animals in general
  • A willingness to undertake all kinds of training and extra tasks to be able to have a pet

The main requirements your child needs for pet ownership to be a success are a sense of compassion, the ability to handle responsibility and looking for ways to make things better for others.

Why pet ownership?

Pet ownership teaches kids a great about life. It teaches them to care for others and to look after their fellow creature. It can also prepare your child for life’s cycles and help them establish a worldview outside of their own self.

If you need help choosing the right pet for your family and are considering pet ownership, come on in and have a chat with our friendly vet nurses. They are adept at asking the right questions and seeking the signs that make for a happy child to pet match. And can talk you through nitty gritty such as the items you might need, the food, housing, caring and enriching your chosen family pet.

Want to take the leap to pet ownership with your child? Drop in to our Wahroonga veterinary clinic and ask around today! We’re happy to help. 

About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.