Choose a Pet

Helping Your Child Choose a Pet

Most children reach the age when they start asking for a pet. If you know children, or have them, you know that when it comes to pets, they want anything and everything that creeps, crawls, or cuddles–from kittens to snakes–because children love animals.

But as parents, we know we can’t let them have every pet they ask for, and for many good reasons: You may not have the room for a big dog. Your apartment may allow a turtle, but not a cat. Or you may work through the day and feel that leaving a dog home alone isn’t something you want to do.

If you’re serious about getting a pet for your child, then it’s time to sit down and talk with her about the best pet for the entire household. Talk about the responsibility, cost, and attention that would be involved in having a pet. A dog needs walked every day. Pet food has to be purchased regularly. And so on.

If you have a busy lifestyle, then a cat may be better than a dog, as they’re a little more self-sufficient. For most cats, give them a bowl of food, water, and a box of litter, and they’re content. Yes, they need love and attention, but are more independent and less high-maintenance than dogs.

Most children adore fish, so this may be the perfect answer. A fishbowl with a couple of goldfish is a good start. You can teach your child to feed the fish and clean the bowl regularly.

If he does okay with the fish bowl, you can upgrade to an aquarium. Besides feeding the fish, there can actually be less work involved with owning an aquarium than a fish bowl: Fish are beautiful to watch in the water—there is a therapeutic benefit to watching them swim—and you don’t have to worry about leaving them home through the day. is a great place to learn about fish and aquariums.

Explain to your child that any pet is going to involve expenses, but some are more expensive and higher-maintenance than others.

Visiting a pet store also helps. There you can get an idea of the kind of pet that works for your family. Maybe it’s a bird, or a hamster. Think outside the box. It doesn’t have to be a cat or dog. But it doesn’t have to be a llama or a goat either. Finding something practical, and family-friendly, is usually the best way to help your child choose a pet.