I will tell you right now that with a baby and a toddler at home, the idea of cleaning up after another creature isn't appealing in the least. But I have fond memories of our childhood dog and slightly traumatic memories of losing cat after cat over the years. Thinking ahead to when my kids can maybe help clean up another creature's poop so I don't have to do it all, I'm starting to consider pets that are super cute and great for kids, so I can start prepping them for their fur buddy responsibilities now.
When it comes to a pet that your kids can help with and enjoy, it makes sense to start small, with a gerbil, fish, or even a bird. Cats and dogs are also good for kids in their own way, although older children will be more able to help with taking care of them. In general, owning and taking care of a pet provides a range of benefits for children and adults alike.
While a pet for your kid might seem like it will instantly add to your to-do list, there are tons of benefits, too, from helping your kid socialize to making them less allergy-prone.
Dr. Sue Doescher, a psychologist at Oregon State University, told The New York Times that pets can make children more cooperative and teach them how to share. She explained, ''Having a pet improves children's role-taking skills because they have to put themselves in the pet's position and try to feel how the pet feels. And that transfers to how other kids feel.'' Teaching your little ones compassion sounds like a darn good reason to bring a pet into the mix.
If you are on the hunt for the perfect adorable pet for your kid, here's where to start.
Unlike hamsters, which are another cute, cuddly creature often suggested as a starter pet, "gerbils are likely to be awake and alert when your children want to play with them," said The Humane Society of the United States. However, they reminded parents that they are better pets for older children who will have less risk of contracting salmonella or zoonotic diseases from the little furballs if they forget to wash their hands.
Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker wrote in the Huffington Post that fish can be great pets for children because "Fish don’t need to be walked, they don’t require a litter box, and they’ll never leave a surprise for you on your brand new carpet or the afghan your mother-in-law knitted for you last Christmas." She reminded parents that while fish are less expensive and time-consuming to care for than other pets, they do need "proper environment and knowledgeable caretakers."
Small birds don't often make many kid-pet lists, but they should, according to veterinarian technician Alyson Kalhagen, who explained, that budgies and cockatiels are the best birds for kids because they are small and don't mind being cuddled or handled. Budgies in particular "are relatively easy to care for," she says, "and yes, can learn to talk." Kalhagen also described them as birds with "gentle personalities" who "can bond quite strongly with their owners." Doesn't that sound like a really sweet option for your little one?
Dogs might be the most researched pet a child could own, and that's no surprise. The benefits for a child having a dog growing up run the gamut from helping them socialize to decreasing the likelihood that they develop allergies. Get Healthy, Get a Dog, a new Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, explained that dogs can "help you be calmer, more mindful, and more present in your life" and "make kids more active, secure, and responsible." Additionally, your blood pressure and heart rate can instantly lower simply when you pet a dog. With those benefits, picking up its poop every day almost doesn't sound so bad!
Cats almost never get top billing in the pet department, falling second to dogs, but they can be great pets for children. Dr. Jane Brunt, a feline specialist and member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, told Care.com, "a cat can help your child practice good social skills." This is due to the fact that your kid will need to practice approaching cats calmly and quietly in order not to scare it away, and the same tactic can often work for other kids as well.
Ok, ok, horses aren't exactly the easiest pets to care for as they require a lot of space, money, and time. But if you have the means, there's no denying the benefits of a horse, said Dr. Samuel B. Ross, executive director of Green Chimneys Children's Services in Brewster, N.Y., where animals are used in treating emotionally disturbed children, in the New York Times. ''You can't stay sad when you're cuddling a rabbit or riding a horse,'' Dr. Ross said. ''No matter how rotten you feel, animals are accepting.''
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