Pet Ownership and Children

For some children, owning a pet can be very beneficial. A pet is a friend that can provide a child with companionship and love; it can help a child develop responsibility, maturity and respect. However not all pets are suitable for children and not all children are suitable to own a pet. Before buying a pet for a child there are certain things that you need to consider.

Firstly, does the child really want a pet? Too often at the shelter we receive animals that are ‘unwanted gifts’. Your children may tell you that they want a puppy or a kitten but will they still want the animal when it is fully grown?  Will they care for it when it is sick?

What kind of pet is suitable for your child? Every child is different just like every animal. As a parent you know your child better than anyone. So before adopting a pet you need to seriously look at your child’s personality, and find a pet that matches. If you have a loud, hyperactive child, then a small, shy puppy or kitten may not be the best match.

Who is ultimately going to be looking after the pet? A pet is a big responsibility and sometimes even the most responsible child cannot cope with all the responsibility. If you do adopt a pet for your child, you need to be prepared to look after and care for that pet yourself.

Is your child ready for a pet? With animals as with children, there is no return policy and there is no such thing as a ‘trial’ pet. It is not fair to buy a rabbit or mouse to see how it goes, before you commit to a larger animal. Sadly we have many rabbits at the shelter that have been bought for children as ‘trial’ pets and the trial hasn’t worked out. Again every child is different and some will be ready for a pet before others, but unless you are 100% certain that your child is ready for a pet, don’t get one.


Do you have time for a pet? Pets can be very time consuming, especially puppies. If you own a puppy, you will need to be prepared to set aside time every day to play with, exercise, train and socialise that puppy.

Picking the right pet is very important – it can be the difference between owning a loving family pet for 15 years and making a terrible mistake. The following things are tips for choosing and owning a pet:

  • Firstly if the pet weighs more than your child it is probably not a good match.
  • Research the species and the breed of the animal – we get so many people come through the shelter who just want a puppy and haven’t put much thought into what breed they are prepared to live with. We recommend you consider the breeds that you like and that you know will be suitable for your family before you begin looking at specific animals.   Many pets are a mixture of breeds and so you might need to look up several breeds.
  • At the RSPCA ACT we behaviourally test all our cats and dogs, and make recommendations in regards to what age group they are suitable for. We strongly recommend that you take these recommendations seriously as we make these recommendations for the safety of your child and the pet.
  • One common thing we hear from parents of young children is: “we want a puppy so that it can grow up with our child”. Puppies and children do not develop at the same rate, and if you do have a young child, consider whether you really have the time for a puppy. Sometimes it is better to look at an older, more settled dog rather than a young one.
  • Encourage your children to be involved with the dog’s training. This will give your children an understanding of dog behaviour. However never allow your child to punish the dog. From the very beginning your child needs to understand that hitting an animal is never okay.

Article courtesy of RSPCA ACT

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