Is your child ready for a pet?

Pets are a lot of responsibility and cost when you factor in food, grooming, vet visits (and all of those toys you can’t help yourself from buying). As a parent, we’ve all had our kids ask for pets and it got us thinking…

At what age are kids responsible enough to help care for pets? What are the best “starter” pets? And, what pet chores can they help with? Our Dad Community shares their thoughts:

Age range: 4-10 was the age range most dads gave for getting a pet (this obviously doesn’t include already owning a pet before having kids!). This was an age range when their kids could help out in some capacity and grow into great responsibility with pets.

Best beginner pets: Dogs, cats, and fish were the most recommended (by a country mile) as starter pets. Dads warned that it was important to look into breeds because some animals aren’t good with kids, and it isn’t fair to pets or kids to bring them into your home.

Older cats, not kittens, were the top choice of dads if you’re going the feline route—less bouncy and bitey kitten, more mature feline manners.

While setting up the fish tank can take some effort, a lot of dads said that fish were less work than their other animals. However, they warned, you might have to talk about the “circle of life” a little sooner if you end up with fish. Plus, petting a fish isn’t the same.

Pet chores: Almost every Dad said the ultimate responsibility will fall onto the parent – no matter what the kid pleads! So if you are not prepared to essentially go through the “baby” phase again, skip the puppy and go for the 3- or 4-year-old pooch.

That said, here are the chores they have their kids help with:

  • Feeding. Refilling water or scooping food is something that kids can do at a very young age. Doing this also helps build a sense of responsibility.
  • Cleaning. Picking up toys is a good place to start whether it’s daily or once a week. One dad mentioned that his young daughter likes to help give their dog a bath as well and brush them after.
  • Poop duty. Yeah, we said it. But, it’s a very real part of owning a pet. It was recommended that this chore come later for kids (10-13) when they are better about cleaning overall.
  • Exercise. Young animals have so much energy. Enlisting the help of your kids to go on walks, runs, games of fetch (or laser pointer) can help burn some of your pets endless supply of energy but also help build a bond between them and your kids.


Yes, pets are a lot of work. They’re also an incredible way to learn unconditional love, empathy, and responsibility – all skills that will serve your children well in life.

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