When we get asked if kids should have pets, the answer is yes. When children are allowed to have pets, it teaches them a sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, people assume this means that they should give their children pets as gifts. This is not a good idea, for the same reason that adopted children shouldn’t be seen as “presents” to be given to a child. The truth is that pets are loyal family members, and should be treated that way. When pets are seen as mere gifts, many children may find that they get tired of the responsibility part and avoid the pet altogether.
The second reason why you shouldn’t give children pets as gifts is that your child may be too young to take it seriously. Does that mean the pet no longer needs care? Absolutely not. If anything, the pet’s needs are going to be increased at the beginning because they have to get used to being in a completely different place. Instead of blaming the pet, you need to look at your decision to bring them home in the first place. If you’re convinced that they will be ready in a few weeks or even a few months, you might agree to handle the needs of the pet for a little while. But there has to be a point where the whole family is involved in taking care of the family pet, otherwise it’ll always be seen as something you want, rather than something that your children want.
A side issue is safety: if children aren’t ready to take care of a pet, they might also not know how to really handle a pet. We’ve seen some young pet owners not realize that they were antagonizing a dog, setting it up to bite them rather than play with them. It’s always heartbreaking to hear that someone is getting rid of their once-loved family pet because the puppy or kitty bit or clawed at one of the children in self defense. Yes, that’s right: when the animal fights back, it’s often out of fear. They are worried that you’re attacking them.
The last reason why it might not be a good idea to give your child a pet for a present is that it makes them feel like the pet is a temporary thing. Many gifts children get are temporary, and once they “grow out of it”, the gift is quietly repurposed or donated. This is not the case with furry friend, because they have to be taken care of for the rest of their lives. Do you have the money to take care of the vet bills, the shots, the food, the pet toys, and the other things that the pet will need?
If the answer is a strong no, then you need to learn how to handle the desire to have a pet. Could you guys volunteer at a pet shelter as a family? They would love to have the extra help, and this can give the children the chance to pet animals and learn more about their care. We’re not saying that they don’t deserve to own a pet someday, but it might not be a wise idea right now.