Make preparations for pets

by Katelin Whiddon

Having a pet seems like something every child wants. But too often, children do not realize the commitment that comes with being a pet owner. Having a pet may not be an option for some for a variety of reasons, but if it is something you are looking into, there are several things you should first consider.

Having a pet is a great chance to teach responsibility, patience and perseverance; however, if a child is asking for a pet, you want to be sure they are able to take on that responsibility. If a child is more developmentally mature, they may be more likely to care for a dog or a cat — a pet that requires daily attention. If you aren’t sure they are ready for that type of commitment, perhaps a fish, bird, turtle or a hamster may be more appropriate.

A child’s temperament and behavior are also very important when choosing a pet. There are different breeds of animals that may do better with children than others. Even within breeds, some particular pets do not have personalities compatible with children. If you are taking in a young animal, you may have a better chance of them learning to adapt to children. However, if you are adopting a pet that has already been with another family, be sure to talk to the current owner about the how the pet interacts with children. Even animals with the best disposition should not be left alone with children in the event they are startled and should retaliate.

Some children have medical conditions that may prohibit them from having certain types of pets. If a child has certain allergies or other medical or behavioral conditions, you may want to talk to their healthcare provider about pets that would be a good option for them. Pets may not be the best option for children with certain bleeding disorders, suppressed immune systems or other conditions as diagnosed by a medical professional.

All animals should have a thorough examination by a veterinarian before or shortly after joining your family to ensure they are in good health. They should always be kept up to date on vaccinations.

If appropriate for your family, being a pet owner has numerous benefits! Studies have been conducted on the effects pets have on their owners. Pets have been shown to be a natural mood enhancer. Stress and anxiety levels can be greatly reduced by a reduction in cortisol and an increase in serotonin when watching or caring for animals. Reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, strokes and numerous other health conditions have also been shown in studies regarding pet ownership. Of course, service dogs can serve in greater ways for those with special medical needs.

When considering becoming a pet owner, be sure to weigh the pros and cons for your family and don’t jump to any quick decisions. Having a pet can be a big commitment but an even bigger blessing when at the right time!


A native of Conway, Katelin Whiddon is a family nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.