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Pets and Children

February 15 2024

Did you know that more than two-thirds of American households are home to pets? As reported by the American Pet Products Association, 70% of us have at least one furry, feathered, or scaly companion. The combination of pets and children is not only adorable but also a classic one. Looking through photos of our animal friends with their little humans never fails to warm our hearts and bring a smile to our faces. 

Pets can greatly benefit children, not to mention add completeness to our homes and families. However, there are some important considerations to bear in mind. In this article, a local Hiawassee, GA veterinarian delves into the topic of kids and pets.

How Does Having A Pet Benefit Kids?

Children can benefit from pets in a number of ways. You might even be surprised at how much of an impact they can make!

  • Social Skills: Pets provide unconditional love and unwavering friendship, as well as endless hugs and cuddles. They offer kids a steady, loving presence.
  • Responsibility: Taking care of a pet teaches children of all ages a great deal about responsibility, whether it’s giving a goldfish its flakes or gently handling a hamster. 
  • Stress Management: You’ve probably cuddled your furry friend after a long, hard day. Fluffy’s soothing purrs and Fido’s slobbery kisses can provide a great deal of comfort and peace to young people as well.
  • Completes The Family: We can always count on our animal friends to help make our houses into homes. They also help make our families complete, which gives children a sense of security.
  • Fewer Allergies: All that dust, fur, and dander that pets produce can actually help strengthen a child’s immune system, making them less likely to end up with allergies.
  • Mental Development: Some research indicates that pets may help children in the development of their cognitive skills. In addition to picking up nonverbal cues, your child can practice reading to Fido or Fluffy as she or he is learning. Our four-legged friends are always great listeners.
  • Safety: As well as making excellent playmates and napping buddies, pets can also be protective of their little humans, which is another possible benefit.

What Is The Best Age For A Child To Get A Pet?

Children mature at different rates, so there isn’t one set age at which they are automatically ready to take on the responsibility of a pet. It also depends on the type of pet you’re getting. In any case, we don’t really recommend pets for children younger than five. At that age, kids are still developing their fine motor skills. They’re also still prone to throwing tantrums, which can frighten or harm an animal.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get a pet if you have a young child. You’ll just need to keep in mind that you will be the one who takes care of the pet and always make sure you supervise interactions closely.

Are Children Who Have Pets Happier?

Pets can boost a child’s mood. For one thing, they’re easy to laugh at. Whether it’s watching Fido chasing a toy, seeing Fluffy pounce on a catnip mouse, or watching a smaller animal devour a tasty treat, pets often serve as our own live-in entertainment. Simply put, animals just have a way of putting a smile on our faces.

What’s A Good First Pet For A Kid?

Finding the perfect pet can make a world of difference. It’s typical to begin with smaller animals, such as gerbils, hamsters, or Guinea pigs. While these pets share many qualities, each has its own unique traits. 

For example, Guinea pigs stand out as the biggest and most charming of the trio. They thrive on social interaction and should not be kept in isolation. Hamsters and gerbils are equally adorable but are also much more delicate. Additionally, though generally gentle creatures, they may nip if they’re nervous.

A goldfish or Betta fish can also make a good first pet for a child, as can some reptiles.

Then, of course, there are dogs and cats, which make wonderful companions. However, if your toddler is loud, or clumsy, Fluffy may be frightened, so you may want to wait until the Terrible Twos have passed. Fido can also make a great friend, but you’ll want to choose a breed that is notoriously good with young children.

Do your homework to see what would work best for your family and ask your Hiawassee, GA veterinarian for advice.

When Should I Get My Child A Pet?

Has your little one been asking you for a furry friend? While there are numerous advantages to pet ownership, it’s important to be aware of some potential pitfalls as well. Children often shift quickly from one favorite thing to another and may eagerly plead for a pet, only to lose interest and end up neglecting its care. It can be helpful to observe a few indicators, such as their consistent desire for a pet, which could signify genuine longing for an animal companion. 

Additionally, paying attention to their responsibility levels through tasks like chores and homework can offer insight into their ability to take on the duties of pet ownership. Are you constantly reminding them, or do they take care of things without being prompted?

The age of your child will also play a role. A mature ten-year-old may very well be able to take care of a puppy by himself, but a four-year-old? Probably not.

What Can Kids Do To Help With Pets?

You’ll also need to determine how much of your new pet’s care your child will be responsible for. For instance, will your child be walking Fido, filling Fluffy’s bowl, or changing her litter box? Even young children can help, you’ll just need to sort out what your kid can handle.

Some tasks that are suitable for children include:

  • Keeping cages and bowls clean
  • Changing the litter
  • Feeding
  • Filling water bowls
  • Playing
  • Brushing
  • Making DIY toys
  • Building DIY houses/furniture
  • Walking
  • Reading to the pet
  • Naming the pet
  • Training assistance

You can even let your youngster help choose their new pet. For instance, if you’ve decided on a hamster, allow them to pick the one they want at the pet store.

Are There Any Safety Rules For Having Kids And Pets?

As always, safety should be a top priority, both for your child and for your pet. The most important thing here is to choose the right pet.

Other suggestions include:

  • Trim your pet’s nails to prevent scratches.
  • Regularly take your pet to the veterinarian.
  • Children should wash their hands thoroughly before and after handling pets or their belongings.
  • Supervise interactions closely. Don’t leave them unattended until you are confident that they will be okay.
  • Introduce your child to the basics of animal body language, such as the fact that a wagging tail can indicate happiness in dogs, but quite the opposite in cats.
  • Discuss the importance of treating pets with kindness and empathy. 
  • When holding or playing with a small animal, have your child sit or kneel. That way, if the little furball jumps or falls, they won’t have very far to go to reach the ground, and therefore will be less likely to become injured.

For more information, have a conversation with your Hiawassee, GA vet.

As long as you are careful and diligent, children can benefit from pets in many ways: they learn kindness, friendship, empathy, and unconditional love. They also make great playmates and cuddle buddies.

Get in touch with us, your local Hiawassee, GA pet hospital, if you have questions about caring for your pet.

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