Pets & Children: Teaching Responsibility

Carefully consider the maturity of the primary caretaker before adding a new pet to your home.



I’m thinking that a pet is a good way to teach responsibility to my children. One is 5 and the other is 3. Do you think they are old enough?


Dr. Nichol:

Do I look like Dr. Joyce Brothers? (Please say no.) The truth is I see a lot of parents making this decision at various times in the development of their children. And having a couple of bambinos myself, I can add a personal perspective.


Number one: Even some adults lack the maturity to have pets (or children, for that matter). So it depends a lot on the individual child; some mature faster than others. Also consider why children want pets. Let’s be honest, it’s often for the same reason they want toys-they think it will be fun, which of course it is. But the responsibility part is what takes maturity. So here’s the answer: If the child is to be the responsible pet care taker the age is 12-14 years with some kids being ready closer to age 40.


But what about the little ones? Oh, they can have pets too as long as the parent knows that it’s not really the child’s but actually the adult’s pet. This way the kids have fun helping with feeding, grooming, and trips to the doctor; but they can still be forgetful which is what they are because, after all, they are little kids. You want pets to be a source of joy to your children, not a point of conflict. If you push responsibility on your kids too early you may set them up to fail.





The Right Age for a New Puppy or Kitten.



At what age should I get a new puppy or kitten?


Dr. Nichol:

If you’re old enough to feed yourself and care for your own physical needs then you’re at a good age to get a pet. As for the age of the puppy or kitten 7-12 weeks is best.