Pets and children are an adorable—and classic—combination. It’s always heartwarming to see cute photos of our animal companions with their favorite tiny humans. As it turns out, our animal companions can benefit children in many ways. A local Wichita, KS veterinarian discusses kids and pets in this article.

Are Children With Pets Happier?

Pets aren’t the only factor in a child’s happiness, but they can definitely give kids a mood boost. It’s hard not to laugh at pets’ playful antics! Whether it’s watching Fido run after a toy, seeing Fluffy pounce on a catnip mouse, or seeing a smaller animal having fun with a toy or treat, pets often act as live-in entertainment. Plus, animals just have a way of making us smile.

What Is A Good First Pet For A Child?

Most people start with smaller pets. Gerbils, hamsters, and Guinea pigs are all good options. These little furballs are all generally similar, but do have some differences. Guinea pigs are the largest and most charismatic of the three. They are also very social, and shouldn’t be kept alone. Hamsters and gerbils are both small and adorable. However, these little guys are quite fragile, and, while they are usually gentle, may nip if frightened.

A fish, such as a goldfish or Betta fish, can also be suitable. There are even some reptiles, such as green anole lizards, that can make good pets for mature kids.

Looking for a family pet? Dogs and cats are of course wonderful animal companions. Just choose pets that are good with kids. No matter what you end up with, be sure to ask your Wichita, KS veterinarian for advice as well.

How Do I Know When My Child Is Ready For A Pet?

These can be tricky waters to navigate. Kids often move quickly from one favorite thing to another. It’s not uncommon for them to beg and plead for pets, only to lose interest in it. The  danger here is that the animal’s care may be neglected, which is the last thing you want. 

There are a few things to watch for. For instance, if your child has been consistently asking for a pet, it says something about how serious they are. Think about how they do with things like chores and homework. Do you have to remind your child to do these things? Or do they get things done without needing to be prompted?

Why Is It Good For Kids To Have A Pet?

Pets and kids are a cute combination, but also a great match. Being around animals and forging bonds with them can benefit children in many ways. 

Here are a few examples: 

Mental Development: research seems to indicate that having pets can help build kids’ cognitive skills. In fact, they are sometimes used as therapy for children that have been diagnosed with autism or other challenges. When interacting with pets, kids will begin to pick up on nonverbal cues. Pets can also help with literacy. As your little one is learning to read, they can also practice reading to Fido or Fluffy. 

Live-In Therapists: Pets can help children overcome many issues. They can be wonderful sources of comfort on bad days. Fluffy and Fido never judge us, won’t betray us, and are always there with unconditional love and cuddles. They also make great listeners.

Social Skills: Pets offer children a steady, loving presence. This can help them build confidence and learn about friendship and empathy. 

Responsibility: Even small children can help with caring for the family pet. That could mean feeding a goldfish or giving the hamster fresh water. Those can be great daily chores, which can help teach kids about responsibility. Just be sure to supervise the pet’s care.

Stress Relief: Many of us have sought comfort on bad days by cuddling or even just spending time with a furry friend. Purrs, tail wags, and snuggles can be a soothing balm for the soul in troubled times. This is true for children as well!

Complete The Family:  Pets have a special way of turning houses into homes. They also help complete our families, and help forge and enrich bonds. That extra dose of love and laughter pets bring to our lives can give kids a sense of security and comfort.

Fewer Allergies: Did you know that children who grow up with pets are less likely to have allergies than those who don’t? All of that dust, fur, and dander helps strengthen kids’ immune systems.

Companionship: Our furry pals also make great playmates and napping buddies. They can also help teach kids about showing respect. Just supervise interactions carefully, especially with very small children. 

When Should Children Get Their First Pet?

There is no one set age where kids are automatically ready for pets. It depends both on the child and on the type of pet you’re getting. However, we wouldn’t really advise getting pets for children younger than five. Very little kids are still developing motor skills, and may still be susceptible to those toddler tantrums. Their high-pitched voices and sometimes-clumsy movements can frighten pets.

If you do get a pet, just be prepared to care for the pet yourself. You’ll also need to supervise interactions carefully.


How Can Kids Help With Pets?

Think about how much responsibility over the pet your child will have. Will they be walking Fido? Will they fill food bowls or change litterboxes? Supervise whatever tasks you assign, and be ready to take over if needed. 

Here are some simple things kids can do:

  • Make DIY houses/furniture
  • Walk Dogs
  • Read to the pet
  • Name the pet
  • Clean cages/bowls
  • Change litter
  • Feed the pet
  • Fill water dishes
  • Play with the pet
  • Brush the pet
  • Make DIY toys
  • Help with training

Children can also help with choosing the new family pet, once you’ve decided what to get!

How Do I Keep Kids And Pets Safe?

Safety should always be the priority. The most crucial thing would of course be choosing the right pet.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep your pet’s nails trimmed down to help prevent scratches
  • Bring the pet to your veterinarian regularly
  • Make sure your child washes their hands thoroughly both before and after handling the pet or its belongings
  • Always supervise interactions very closely. (We can’t overstate this one.)  
  • Don’t leave kids and pets unattended, at least until you’re certain they’ll be fine.

Communication is also very important. Teach your child about pet’s body language. They need to learn key things, such as the fact that a wagging tail means a happy dog but may also mean an angry cat. Explain the importance of treating pets with kindness and empathy. We all want to be treated with respect and compassion. It’s never too early to start 

If you have a small pet, have your child sit or kneel when holding or playing with them. That way, if the little furball jumps or falls, they won’t have far to go.

Ask your Wichita, KS vet for more information.

In conclusion: Pets can be very beneficial for children: they teach kids about kindness, friendship, and empathy, offer unconditional friendship, and make great playmates and cuddle buddies. However, it’s important to choose the right pet, and to monitor things carefully.

Do you have questions about caring for your pet? Contact us, your local Wichita, KS pet hospital, today!