Grey Cat

How Young Is Too Young for a Child’s First Pet?

Dear Sara,

My neighbor’s cat just had kittens. My three and five year olds are fascinated and are begging me to let them have one. I know that I will end up being the one to feed the cat and empty the litter box even though they promise to do this. I am also worried that they are too young to understand that this is not an inanimate object and will hurt the cat or he will retaliate and hurt them. Do you think they are old enough for a pet?

Dear Marty,

Having a pet is a good way to teach your children empathy. They need to know that their pet has feelings and can be hurt just as they can. Kittens are cute and fun to play with but an older cat might be something to consider as well. You could take your kids to the local animal shelter and let them pick one out. Their pet would already be spayed or neutered and you could pick one who had a temperament that would be compatible with your children. One who would be somewhat laid back and easy going who wouldn’t mind being dressed in doll clothes. You will probably be saving this pet from being euthanized as well.

A cat may be a good first pet for children since it is fairly easy for them to escape to a safe place like under the bed when they get tired of being played with. Cats are fairly easy to take care of and shouldn’t be too much extra work for you. Sometimes after a busy day you might also enjoy the comfort of a purring cat in your lap. This could become your cat when the kids have other things to do.

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