How to Tell if Your Child is Ready to Have a Pet

Whether your child is ready for a pet depends on their maturity and responsibility level, which pet they want, and if their interest is genuine.

Jul 30, 2023byNatasha Elder
how to tell if your child is ready to have pet

At some point in their young lives, most children will want a pet. And because pets make incredible additions to any family, you may well be tempted to say yes. But is your child ready for a pet? How can you tell? And if they are, which pet would be appropriate? Which one wouldn’t? Today’s article will answer all these questions, and more, so be sure to keep reading.

Has Your Child Displayed Genuine Interest in Having a Pet?

happy smiling girl hugging dog park
Image credit: Vitaliy Zalishchyker on Unsplash

The very first step to telling whether your child is ready to have a pet or not is by ascertaining that they actually want one. Remember, children are very susceptible to peer pressure and – at various ages throughout their lives – will want to follow trends for fear of feeling left out.

Does your child only want a pet because Ava or Noah got one for their birthday? Or have they only asked for a pet after watching a video on YouTube or TikTok? Sometimes, and no judgment is intended here, it’s mom and dad who actually want to welcome a new pet to the family and not so much the kid in question!

If your child has repeatedly asked for a pet over a longer period, then it’s likely that their desire to have one is genuine. Ask your child why they want a pet and if they can give you any reason other than “because I want one,” then progress the conversation.

If you have any reason to suspect that your child wanting a pet is more of a phase than anything else, wait it out. It’s worth taking the time to establish that your child truly wants a pet. There are several reasons why people give their pets up, don’t let your kid changing their mind end up on that list.

Is Your Child Responsible Enough for a Pet?

girl toydog puppy beach
Image credit: Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

Depending on the age of your child (more on that down below), in all honesty, the adult of the house is likely going to be the pet’s primary caregiver. But that doesn’t mean your child can or should get off scot-free. In fact, one of the most incredible benefits of children having pets is that they learn how to care for another being.

If your child wants a pet, they need to be prepared to be responsible for it to some degree. Whether that responsibility is training a dog, exercising a cat, or a good old daily poop scoop is up to you.

It can be difficult to tell if a child is responsible enough to have a pet before they actually have one. In saying that, you know your child and will likely instinctively know if they’re responsible enough or not. Here are some suggestions to help you improve their level of responsibility:

  • Use a chore chart to get them used to taking ownership of daily tasks and chores.
  • Get a stuffed animal practice pet to help them learn how to physically handle it.
  • Offer to pet sit and get your child involved so they can experience first-hand what having a pet is like.

Is Your Child Mature Enough for a Pet?

walking dog boy road
Image credit: Joshua Heath on Unsplash

A lot of the time, your child’s level of maturity will dictate whether they’re ready for a pet or not. Are they able to handle animals safely and gently? Do they show patience and compassion? Can they comprehend the responsibility that will fall on them?

Ultimately, as the responsible adult, it’s up to you to decide if your child is mature enough to have a pet. Generally, a child’s level of maturity (especially when it comes to pet care) is linked to their age. In saying that, there’s no specific age that is the perfect age to become a pet owner.

As a guideline, children under the age of 6 are likely not ready for a pet as they generally don’t have the cognitive and emotional development needed to properly care for and appreciate the animal. Children aged between 6 and 10 years can care for a pet under an adult’s close supervision, and kids over the age of 10 are usually mature enough to have a pet.

What is the Best Pet for a Child?

guinea pig picnic basket little boy goats
Image credit: Dawn on Unsplash

By now, you should have a clearer idea as to whether your child is ready to have a pet, so it’s on to the fun part: picking the perfect first pet! There are many great pets for kids out there, which makes choosing the right one challenging.

A child’s first pet should be relatively easy to care for, be known for having a laid-back personality, and be considered child-friendly. It should also be something that they’re actually interested in having; if your child has been begging for a dog, they will be super disappointed with a Discus fish (no offense to Discus fish, of course!)

Based on the above, the following animals make great pets for kids:

Natasha Elder
byNatasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership