How to choose the right pet for your kids
By Melissa Brodsky
Having a pet can be a wonderful experience for children. Kids love animals and can learn a lot about caring for others from them, plus, studies show there are even some health benefits to pet ownership. But once you’ve decided to get a pet for your kids, it’s time to tackle the hard part — choosing the right one.
Goldfish can make safe first pets, as they are inexpensive and don’t require a whole lot of space or care. The problem is that, after a while, kids tend to lose interest in them. Still, they might provide your kids some enjoyment, especially if they get to feed the fish themselves. Hamsters, gerbils or other rodents can make good first pets, as well. They do require more space and care, but they may also hold your kids’ interest for longer.
Starting small allows your kids to get used to caring for a pet without taking on a huge responsibility right away, and they can prove a good choice for very small children who aren’t yet ready for a puppy or a kitten.
Age and maturity
Consider your kids’ ages and maturity levels before you choose a pet. Likewise, get some books that describe pet care duties in detail and ask yourself whether your kids are ready to be responsible for the type of pet you are considering. Keep in mind that if your kids shirk their responsibilities, you will be the one who must pick up the slack.
Also, remember that you need to keep both your kids and their pet safe. Many parents spend a lot of time worrying about whether a new pet will bite, scratch or otherwise injure their children, but forget that an exuberant child can accidentally injure a pet. Often, pets are injured when kids are overly excited about holding them, pull or squeeze their body parts or get scared and drop them. By selecting a pet that is age-appropriate for your kids, teaching your kids how to handle it safely and providing supervision as needed, you can keep your both children and the animal safe.
Many kids take interest in reptile and amphibian pets. Though they can make interesting additions to your family, keep in mind that many require special equipment and food (sometimes expensive and often live). Additionally, many of these pets can carry salmonella, which poses a serious health threat, especially to small children. If you choose this type of pet, be diligent about hand-washing after handling it.
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