At What Age Can my Child Properly Care for a Pet of their Own?

Deciding to get a pet is a big decision, whether your getting a dog breed for small spaces, or a bigger dog. You may have been pestered by your child for many years for a dog or cat or any other animal and you may have been putting it off until you feel they are emotionally ready for such a huge investment. Having a pet comes with plenty of responsibility and if you want your child to be ready to take care of a pet completely and fully by himself, then he needs to be able to take care of himself completely and fully by himself as well.

There is no right or wrong age for a child to get a pet but, until your child is grown up himself, he is going to need your assistance with some things. For example, until your son can drive, you are going to need to drive him and his pet to the vet for vaccinations and illnesses. Until your son is able to walk in the park alone, then you are going to have to go for walks with him. So, the real question is not, at what age can my child properly care for a pet, but rather, at what age am I willing, as a parent, to let my child take on this responsibility?

Children and Pet Responsibility

There are different responsibilities for owning different pets. Children as young as five will be able to handle the responsibilities of having a fish. All they need to do is feed them a few pinches of food at night and clean the aquarium once a week. Make sure your child understands the difference between real things and play things and let them have a practice run with a stuffed cat or dog. If you notice the stuffed cat has been put into the microwave or shoved into the dryer, then it is safe to say that your child is still not emotionally capable of taking care of a pet.

Owning a dog comes with the most responsibility and you can expect that having a dog is going to be a joint family effort. Your child may want to feed it and walk it without adult supervision and this might be okay if they are old enough to walk to school by themselves. However, no parent will be happy letting their five year old wander around the park at night with just a dog. Having a dog also means dedication and patience, two things that younger children do not have. It might be wise to hold off getting a dog for your child until they are at least ten years old and able to take the time to teach their dog tricks and rules of the household.

There are a number of pluses to letting your child have a pet. A pet is a great companion and can fill your household with so much more love. However, as they do become your child's best friend there is also a lot of sadness if the pet dies from an illness or accident. This is something you also need to prepare your child for, just in case.

Whether your child is five years old or fifteen years old, think about adding a pet to your household. However, know that, until they are financially capable of caring for themselves, they are always going to need to rely on Mom and Dad when taking care of their pet. And, as a parent, this small amount of constant reliance will never change. And isn't that the greatest joy of being a parent to begin with?

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