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Hanford Veterinary Hospital Blog

For The Love Of Kids And Pets: Teaching Children About Pet Ownership

Pet AdoptionGrowing up with a pet is a wonderful memory for so many of us, and we understandably want our kids to share in the joys of pet ownership. Besides being a friend, playmate, and confidant, pets can teach kids lessons about responsibility, compassion, and empathy.

Adopting a pet for your child may sound like a good idea in theory, but many parents worry that once the novelty of a new pet wears off the grownups will be shouldered with the entirety of the pet care chores. Deciding if your child is ready for a pet, which type of pet to adopt, and how to guide your kids in learning about pet care are all key components in raising the next generation of responsible pet owners.

Your team at Hanford Veterinary Hospital cares about the two-legged members of your family, and we’re here to support you and your children on your journey toward pet ownership. The following is a list of age appropriate pets and pet-care tasks. These are only general guidelines; only you can determine what your child is capable of.


While pet care isn’t recommended for very small children, toddlers can assist parents and older children in simple tasks like brushing, walking, and the proper way to give a pet his or her daily treat. Learning about gentle touching and giving an animal his or her space is key at this age.

Young Children

3-5 year olds are beginning to learn about compassion and empathy and are probably more capable of “gentle touch” than toddlers. With the help of an adult or responsible older sibling, younger kids can be involved in basic pet care such as filling water and food containers, gentle brushing, and feeding daily treats.

Guinea Pigs can make good pets for preschool aged children because they enjoy being held, rarely bite, and are relatively simple to care for, although adult supervision will be needed to ensure that food and fresh water is always in supply and that kids are handling their pets gently.

Older Children

Kids ages 5-10 can be given a much wider range of responsibilities such as feeding and watering, cleaning cages with adult help, exercising/playing with dogs and cats (with supervision) and assisting parents in advanced grooming tasks such as nail clipping and teeth brushing as well as helping to clean up dog and cat waste.

Older kids may be able to care for small pets such as hamsters or goldfish without too much adult involvement (although you will always need to ensure that the animal is being properly cared for).


Responsible teens can take on the majority of pet care duties from walking dogs to cleaning cages/litter boxes to brushing teeth and other grooming tasks with little to no supervision. Many teenagers enjoy learning about pet behavior and can be encouraged to work with pets on learning new commands, agility training, etc.

Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, or aquariums are suitable for animal-loving teenagers. Pay special attention to your teen’s schedule and make sure that he or she has enough time to devote to a pet before taking the plunge. If your teen is already caring for a pet, be on the lookout for signs that the pet isn’t getting the attention he or she needs.

Last But Not Least

Our kids learn by watching us! Modeling responsible, compassionate, respectful pet ownership will help cultivate a lifetime love of animals for your children and the generations to come. Please don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or concerns regarding your kids and pets!

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