This post is brought to you by Raise a Cat.
If your child has been begging for a pet, you might be wondering if this birthday or Christmas is the time to give one as a gift. Keeping a pet can certainly be an important formative experience for a child, and there are many positive lessons he or she can learn from a first pet. Here are just three of the most important ones.
1. Responsibility – But The Buck Still Stops With You
Having pets that depend on them can help kids to learn about responsibility, but this lesson shouldn’t be learned at the expense of the unfortunate animal. No matter how much Junior promises to dutifully feed, water, and care for a pet, kids are notoriously scatterbrained. By all means, allow your kid to be responsible for the basics, but keep a wary eye out to ensure that your child doesn’t forget the responsibility when something else exciting is happening.
For you, this means learning everything you can about petcare and making sure you’re ready for its challenges. What costs do you have to absorb? Do you know how to find a lost pet? How will you control ticks and fleas? If your child is a pet parent, so are you!
As long as you’re willing to accept that the buck stops with you, which in essence means that you’re still responsible for the family pet, by all means let your child learn his or her early lessons in responsibility from an animal. Close supervision from you is still a must, and you might end up having to do the things your child passionately promised to take charge of.
2. The Circle of Life – Joy, Sorrow, Love and Loss
Accepting the realities of life and death can be hard for kids to do. But for many of them, their first experience of life, death, and loss come from keeping a pet. It may seem harsh. But the realities of life and death are easier to deal with after experiencing them at first hand with a beloved pet. While comforting a grieving child after the loss of an animal companion may not seem like a pleasant task, it’s still a gentler introduction to the knowledge that life is finite than the loss of a loved one later in life.
Until that time comes, your child can enjoy learning some of the other realities of life through a pet. For example, they can watch puppies grow into young dogs, adult dogs, and later seniors, all within the space of a few years. And they will transfer this knowledge into their dealings with other kids, adults, and elders.
Much as we love them, kids can seem remarkably callous at times, but often, it’s just because they don’t fully understand. Keeping a pet teaches them a little about the difficulties of growing up, the beauties of living in one’s prime, and the inevitable effects of ageing and illness.
3. Respect and Empathy for Living Things
The special bond between children and their pets teaches them to respect other living creatures to a greater degree. Knowing that animals are capable of feelings and may need protection from the harms present in the outside world is a huge developmental step in learning empathy for the creatures with which we share the planet.
While learning these principles in theory is one thing, practicing them is another. Pets give kids the opportunity to understand that all living creatures have needs, feelings, and the right to life. Needless to say, this also affects how they deal with other people. A little empathy goes a long way.
Pets fast-track your child’s understanding of all living creatures, their needs, their feelings, and the ways in which positive and negative experiences affect them.
Happy Memories Will Outlive the Sad Ones
As you can see, keeping a pet will teach valuable lessons to any child – and some of them will be hard ones. But let’s not forget the happy memories they’ll treasure forever. Playing fetch with a beloved dog, or enjoying the warm sound of a purring cat, cuddles, trust, fun, love, and laughter are all part of the pet-shaped package.
As long as you remember that you’re still in charge and therefore responsible, the happy memories will outweigh the sad ones a thousand times over. So, if your kid is asking for a pet, and you’re willing to shoulder the final responsibility of everything from vet bills to ensuring that food and water bowls are topped up, there’s no reason not to let your child enjoy a real-life learning experience that will bring more joy than sadness.