Pets Can Teach Kids Respect, Responsibility
PetSmart Nick Saint-Erne, DVM / PetSmart
Many research studies extol the benefits of family pets: teaching children responsibility and providing friendship and companionship. From the classic boy and his dog to kittens for girls, pets are an important part of childhood. Kids can learn a lot about biology, respect for life, and responsibility helping to care for a pet. But remember, an adult should always supervise the overall care of the pet to be sure all of its nutritional, environmental, and behavioral needs are being met.
Small children should be allowed to interact with pets under supervision, but should not be relied on for their care. Somewhere around ages 10-12 (younger for kids really interested in pets, but even older for some types of pets) a child can become the primary care provider for a pet, but they still need to be supervised. Parents should make sure that food and clean water are available all the time, and the pet's area is routinely cleaned as appropriate. Keep pets away from food or the kitchen, and teach the children proper cleaning and sanitation methods - this could help them keep their own room clean, too! Studies show that children who tend to pets often become more nurturing and empathetic as adults.
A few cautions are in order, however:
- Be sure to teach your children to always wash their hands with soap and water after handling pets or cleaning the habitats. There are a few diseases of animals that can affect people, but these are easily avoided with proper care.
- Make sure small children are supervised around pets.
- Routine veterinary examinations are also a good idea to keep the pet healthy, ensure that all its needs are being met, and to check to make sure it doesn’t have any diseases affecting it or possibly your child.