What age should children be when you get your first family pet? There’s a big debate in my house right now about 1) if we are ready for a pet and 2) what type of pet we should get. Our kids are asking for a kitten, my husband would rather start off with a hamster. And I prefer to wait until my kids are a bit older and more responsible. Our kids are ages 6, 8, and 11. What do you think?
Not Yet Petsmart
Dear Becoming Petsmart,
Eight and eleven is probably not too young for children to start taking on the responsibilities of a pet. Bear in mind, both a kitten and a hamster require daily care. They have to have food laid out for them, they must have clean water and, believe it or not, they must be played with EVERY day. (I’m going to assume that someone else will be responsible for cleaning either the kitty litter or the bottom of the hamster cage).
There are also several other “life” lessons your children can learn from either one:
- They can see what it’s like to be going around in circles all day and not getting anywhere.
- They can begin to understand what it means to finally break out of your cage (which might be a good thing or a bad thing).
- They can appreciate how important it is to cuddle and be cuddled.
- They will see how a critter can be so friendly one minute and so aloof the next.
Bottom line, I say yes. But remember three things:
- Hamsters are rodents and might feel very comfortable hiding underneath your kitchen cabinets.
- Kittens become cats and become lifetime responsibilities. And –
- Never let your six-year-old bring the hamster to school for Show and Tell without the cage.