Children and Pets: When to Introduce an Animal into Your Family

The benefits of children interacting with animals are well documented. Talking to an animal will develop a child’s speech and their capacity for empathy and compassion. There are also physical benefits for the child, the opportunity for more exercise and a boost to their immune system.

The purchase of any pet is something which requires careful consideration. When there are children in the home there are a number of factors to be considered. You need to feel comfortable that the addition of a pet will benefit your child and that the animal will be comfortable and happy. Clearly, some pets present more challenges than others.

The type of pet

A tankful of fish presents no potential threat to a small child or baby and as long as they are out of reach, the fish should be in no danger from the child. Whilst fish may be of interest to a child, their opportunity for interaction is obviously very limited. Small mammals, such as mice can also be introduced to children at a young age although there needs to be close supervision when the animals are being handled. Mice make delightful pets, but they are short lived. Children can learn about birth and death through keeping pets, but you need to be aware that very small children may find the death of pet mice distressing.

Rabbits can have a life expectancy of up to ten years, though pedigree breeds have much shorter life spans. They make excellent pets for small children, they are affectionate and surprisingly intelligent, you can even train them to come through a cat-flap and keep them as a house pet.

Cats are always a popular choice as a family pet, temperaments vary from animal to animal and from breed to breed but on the whole most cats enjoy human interaction.

Dogs also make wonderful pets for children, but we are all aware of horrible incidents in which children have been either accidentally or intentionally hurt by dogs. It is not recommended that you introduce dogs into your home if your children are under the age of five and any child under the age of ten should be supervised in the presence of a dog. Whilst the vast majority of dogs are perfectly safe in the company of children, you should never forget that any dog has the potential to seriously injure a child and that just because the animal has never shown any signs of aggression that does not mean that it is incapable of aggression.

The Commitment

Whatever pet you decide on you need to recognise that you are making a commitment to look after the animal for the entirety of its lifespan. If you are not familiar with keeping a pet, you need to be aware that a visit to the vet can be very expensive and if your cat or dog requires surgery and medication you could be facing a bill for thousands. You should seriously consider taking out insurance for your pet, you don’t want to find yourself in the position of having to put an animal down because you can’t afford the treatment.

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