Many children would love a cuddly cat or dog to play with. But should you give into your child's puppy-dog eyes when he asks for a furry, feathered or scaly friend? "I want to hear what others do or think," says Circle of Moms member Veronica K. "I love animals, don’t get me wrong, but I have my limitations on what I would allow in my home.”
Another mom, Wendy, is seeking input on what kind of animal would make for a good pet for her four-year-old daughter and seven and a half-year-old son, and she has many questions. "My husband and I have been talking about getting our children a pet, but we live in a small apartment so we don’t have much room," she says. "We don’t know what kind of pet our children would love or could handle. How did you introduce your child’s pet into the family?"
Here, Circle of Moms members offer four questions to consider before agreeing to parent a pet.
1. Is Your Child Ready for the Responsibility?
Many Circle of Moms members tout the benefits of pet ownership, saying it teaches kids responsibility in addition to providing another family member to love. "I think growing up with pets is so important [for kids]. It teaches them how to respect other living creatures, responsibility, and they always have a playmate," says one Circle of Moms member (screenname: Little Miss can’t Be Wrong).
But if your child isn't ready to help feed the animal or touch the pet in a safe way, then it might be worth waiting until he is physically and emotionally ready be more responsible, moms suggest. For example, Michelle says she only gave her daughter some fish after her third birthday and understood that her job would be to feed them each day. Michelle helps her daughter measure out the correct portion and teachers her one-year-old son to put the fish food container away.
Ashley and Sarah H. agree that the younger children probably should just be put in charge of feeding the pet, and even that activity should be supervised to make sure it’s actually done. Sarah started getting her 15-month-old to help feed their dog, but admits that she has to remind him not to play with the food, and also "sometimes stop him because he likes to feed the dog all the time."
Older children can be taught more complex tasks such as how to bathe a dog. Ashley adds.
2. What are Your Time and Budget Constraints?
When determining pet ownership, it’s important to consider your time and budget constraints, Circle of Moms members say. This is because it’s the parent’s responsibility to educate the child and teach them to respect the animal, Martine S. explains. "The child has to learn that no hair pulling, tail pulling, or hitting is allowed. Your animal has to know that you are also there for him. I am always baffled when people expect an animal to be 100 percent perfectly behaved," she says.
A member named Janeta agrees, relaying that she had to gradually introduce her daughter to their cat and dog: how to be gentle, and also teach the animals that their daughter is “just a baby.” Their cat knows not to bite or try to claw her, she says. "You have to have patience with the animals and with the child(ren) as well."
"Pets are awesome when you have kids — if you have the time/energy to take care of kids and [the] pets," Denikka G. says. Parents also have to consider the costs of food, housing and vet care, too. That’s why although she loves dogs, she's decided now is not the right time to get one. Her son is two-and-a-half years old, but when he gets older and can be responsible for a pet, she will let him own just about any animal he passionately wants.
The time and money necessary to care for a pet can be considerable, according to several moms. Iysha J., for example says she regrets having to vacuum every day to keep her house free of fur. "Pets are a pain, and it takes a lot of patience for someone to have a pet … It's harder to keep up with than a baby, really," she cautions.
For those reasons, Nikkole S. says she is not ready for the responsibility of a pet. "My son will be three this month and he keeps asking for a puppy, but I’m not getting one ’till both my kids are potty trained."
Pet owners Lise B. and Katherine B. say they, too, aren’t getting any more pets once their current ones pass away, because pet ownership takes too much time. "We have two dogs and a two-year-old, and I can't wait to not have pets," Lise says. "It's just that we really don't have the time to appropriately play with the dogs."
"[We] prefer spending our time with our child(ren) and not cleaning up cat puke, running to the vets, etc." Katherine B. seconds.
3. Does the Pet Fit Your Space?
Once you're ready for the responsibility of owning a pet, Circle of Moms members suggest you find one that fits in with the family — and your living space. For apartment-dwellers, Erica suggests a cat or less-active dog breed. "We have a Whippet, and he really only needed walking once a day, if that, when he was younger," she says. On the other hand, she says smaller dogs don’t tend to mix well with small children.
For a first pet, and for younger children, Kylie suggests starting with something small: "Fish, little birds, mice/rats, hamsters, or a rabbit." Smaller pets are easy to contain, their cages can be cleaned out easily, and feeding them is easy, too, she adds. And Kate cautions that bunnies need a lot of space and a garden.
Both Amanda P. and a mom named Eric urge research on species and breeds. "Research is crucial when choosing an animal to bring into a home with children, based on the temperament of the animal, and the lifespan and health issues the animal may have,” says Amanda, and Erica suggests talking to a local vet: "They will have great insight and may know of an animal that needs re-homing that would be perfect for your situation."
4. Will You Be Around to Supervise?
Even when you've found the best breed to co-exist with your children, experienced pet owners caution that you should always supervise your child around your pet. Anna R. says her pets are "exceptionally patient" with her son, letting him crawl all over them, pull on them, and put his fingers into their mouths. "[But], I don't ever leave the baby alone with them; they're still animals with instincts, and my son's still a baby with unpredictable impulses," she notes.
Even the friendliest dog could accidentally knock down a baby, adds Michelle S. "I love and trust our dog," she says of her Rottweiller X Mastiff. "But I will still be cautious with the children." That being said, experienced pet owners say with the right precautions, pet ownership is invaluable. "Pets bring such joy to the family and teaches children so much," exclaims Michelle S.
"Whether it's a dog, cat or a fish, it's not only fun but does teach them tremendous amounts of responsibility, respect and compassion," Lyssa B. concludes.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.