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Teach Your Child to Be a Responsible Pet Owner

February 24, 2014

Many parents acquire a pet in the hopes of strengthening their child’s sense of responsibility and increasing his or her maturity. Keep the following tips in mind as you work with your child to care for your new animal companion.

Experts point out that children under age 7 or 8 should not be a pet’s primary source of care. While a preschooler can help take care of a smaller animal, a young child cannot be expected to learn and follow the regular program of care necessary for any animal’s health and well-being.

Assign one or more simple chores to a younger child. For example, he or she can be responsible for pouring fresh water into your cat or dog’s bowl each day. Remember to make sure your child has completed the task. And don’t overwhelm a younger child with multiple or complex jobs, which can foster negative feelings toward the pet.

Avoid assigning a chore that is beyond your child’s physical capabilities, or one that could prove dangerous. Emptying a litter box is a better choice for an older child, since young children may come into contact with toxins through putting fingers into their eyes and mouths.

School-age children can do research and pick out the kind of pet they would like best. Make sure your child understands the full scope of what his or her responsibilities will be; you may find a job chart helpful. For a child of any age, the key to building character through pet ownership is a daily routine of responsibilities that are not overwhelming.


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