Most children love animals and will usually start asking for a pet. Allowing them to have one can depend on many factors including where you live, how much time you have to give to a pet and your child’s maturity level. Is your child ready for a pet? Does he display real interest in an animal friend, or is it just the latest whine-de-jour? How does he handle responsibilities? Does he complete his age appropriate chores or is it a constant struggle to get him to do anything? If you cannot get him to pick up his dirty drawers, will he really feed, water and clean up after a pet?
Apartment dwellers are often drawn to the exotic pets because they are small and relatively easy to care for. Before starting to look at actual animals, make sure you know your child’s temperament and level of commitment to the idea and then narrow down the search. Find the right category of animal first and then start looking. Your search should take you to a reputable pet shop where a knowledgeable salesperson should take the time to match your child to the right pet, and not just try to make a fast sale. Make sure that you know what kind of equipment your new pet will need to stay happy and healthy before even heading down to the pet shop; some pets will be far more expensive initially than others.
Understand that while the child is the one that is asking for this pet, you will ultimately be overseeing its care, and potentially taken over full time. With that in mind, you will want to consider if you will be able to tolerate the chosen pet. If you are anti-snake, and your son has refused to clean the cage, what will you do? Also, consider the pet’s diet before allowing him to become part of your family. Snakes for instance, eat rodents. Will you be able to handle that? Will it be too intense for your child?
Finally, realize that the attention span of even the most patient child can be as short lived as the toy filled commercials they are bombarded with. Today’s “hot” pet will be tomorrow’s passé reject, so be prepared to step in and adopt the cast off. Until your child is older than ten, you might want to stick with fish, or birds, both of which require minimal human contact, are pretty and rarely creep out Mom.