What Can Children Learn From Looking After a Pet?

Updated on December 21, 2016
boy with rabbit
boy with rabbit | Source

I firmly believe children can learn a great deal from looking after a pet or pets, even if those pets are very small such as a goldfish, or are novelty pets like Sea Monkeys. The main thing is that the pet is appropriate to the age of the child, and that once they have proven they are capable of taking care of their smaller pets successfully, they can graduate on to larger and more exciting pets.

I grew up in a household with pets that included goldfish, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea-pigs etc. Having these creatures in my life taught me so many beneficial lessons, and I am now certain that teaching your children to care for animals (which are dependent on them), results in those children turning into far nicer and more responsible adults than those who were never allowed to keep pets when they were growing up.

Allowing your children to have pets does not have to be expensive. I was surprised to get a comment on my How to Care for and Choose your Guinea-Pig (Cavy) hub from a girl asking if she would be okay to only keep one guinea-pig as opposed to two together. Apparently her Mother would only allow her one because she thought two would be too expensive. Bearing in mind a guinea-pig only costs pennies to feed anyway, and the cage would only need to be marginally larger for two than one, I could not understand her Mother's logic at all. Needless to say I commented back explaining in great detail why two would be better than one and would not make a huge amount of difference to the costs at all.

Some of the smallest pets like goldfish will cost next to nothing to keep, and if you are lucky you might even pick up a second hand fish tank free from a friend or a recycling depot. Setting up the Sea Monkeys I mentioned earlier as pets costs a few pounds, and that includes the tank and food etc. Neither of these tiny pets are going to cost you anything in vets bills and they certainly won't eat much. What they will do is capture your child's imagination and set them on the path to becoming more responsible adults.

As the children get older and they have illustrated the responsibility required to own a pet, you might let them progress on to small mammals like, hamsters, guinea-pigs and rabbits. These can be followed by cats, dogs and larger pets which your child can have part responsibility for e.g. feeding, grooming, walking etc. What your children won't consciously be aware of is that by having and caring for these pets they are also developing other great personality traits such as compassion, an ability to love and a nurturing instinct.

girl and cat
girl and cat | Source

What can children learn from looking after a pet?

So to summarise here are the things I believe children learn from looking after a pet or pets on a regular basis.

  • Responsibility
  • Compassion
  • Ability to love
  • A desire to nurture
  • Empathy
  • Kindness
  • Gentleness

What small pets are ideal for children?

Depending on their age you will find any of the following make great potential pets for your children.

  • Goldfish
  • Sea Monkeys
  • Hermit Crabs
  • Bugs (bug kits can be purchased)
  • Hamsters
  • Gerbils
  • Rats
  • Rabbits
  • Guinea-Pigs (Cavies)
  • Ferrets

girl with dog
girl with dog | Source

What larger pets are ideal for children?

As the children get a little older you might allow them to progress on to larger more interesting pets which you can supervise their care of. Some of my favourites are:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Ponies
  • Donkeys
  • Goats
  • Chickens

I hope that after reading this you now have the answer as to what children can learn from looking after pets, and if you are trying to decide whether or not to allow your own child to have a pet, you can now see why it would be a good idea and which pets might be suitable.

girls grooming a pony
girls grooming a pony | Source

Did you have pets growing up?

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Do you think children benefit from growing up with pets?

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Do you have pets?

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girl with ferret
girl with ferret | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      From what you say it sounds as if your daughter is going to turn out/has turned out to be a wonderful caring adult as a result of her early exposure to the responsibility of keeping and loving pets of her own :)

    • TeachableMoments profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Great hub. My daughter has sea monkeys, a fish, a dog, two cats and a rabbit. We have our very own farm!! She grew up raising her "babies" and refers to her pets as her "siblings." Her experiences with animals taught her how to take care of all living things and the importance of being responsible. My daughter has always been there for her pets and they have always been there for her. Pets are a wonderful thing.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      You are right katiebaby74, learning about death from an early age is so important, and I too learned this early in life, (when we lost our first goldfish, and then later on when I knocked over my Sea Monkeys by accident).

    • katieababy74 profile image


      8 years ago from Auckland

      Really interesting thank you. On a rather morbid point it can also really help children understand the process of losing our loved ones. I remember quite clearly my first dog dying and as sad as I was I believe it gave me my first understanding of death. There are so many positives for children having pets, a resounding thumbs up from us!!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Kelly, It is really nice to hear your children love their pets and look after them properly. Anything that teaches children compassion has got to be a good thing :)

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi drbj, so glad you liked this. Growing up one of the many groups of pets I had included stick insects. I have to confess although I was fascinated by them I would not handle them. I like the idea of a butterfly kit though, very educational as well as interesting.

      Another pet I had was a rat, and honestly they make one of the best small pets, they never bite and they don't smell. Apart from anything else they are highly intelligent and will be awake when your child is (not nocturnal like hamsters and gerbils tend to be). I was so impressed by them as pets my Hubby and I took on two more a few years back, sadly they are both now deceased, but they were again lovely little creatures. I do understand why you might not want them around if you were scared of rats though (my Mum and Sister both are).

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Clairemy, pleased you enjoyed this. I have noticed the same with regards to the children with pets growing up to be more caring and responsible towards people too.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Great Hub! My kids love their pets - and I think it also hells them to be more compassionate for the needs of another living thing outside themselves. They know our animals depend on us to feed and care for them and that is more important than watching TV or playing board games.

      Up and awesome:)

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      I'm with you, Misty, on the rationale for children to have pets and the desirable traits to be learned. Your choices for ideal pets are fine minus two. But choosing either bugs or rats would not be my cup of tea. Voted Up, m'dear.

    • clairemy profile image


      8 years ago

      Children who have pets certainly seem to grow up into more caring and more responsible adults, not just towards animals but people too.

      Really liked this hub.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks for your comment income guru. I totally believe children turn out better when they have learned compassion towards animals from an early age :)

    • incomeguru profile image

      Oyewole Folarin 

      8 years ago from Lagos

      Yes the benefits are so many. Children would have learned to be a kind, caring, and God fearing person. Because, all these things they would have demonstrated equally with the pet.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks ever so much Linda. I am so pleased you approved of this, especially as it was written as an answer to your question :)

    • Linda Bliss profile image

      Linda Liebrand 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for answering my question about what children can learn from looking after pets. Great hub and I'm loving the photos too - voted up and shared!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks for such a fabulous comment Michele, as someone who used to own a horse myself I know how gentle they can be when they sense a person needs them to be. My horse could be a total nightmare to ride, and she was three quarters thoroughbred and a quarter Arab. If I put a learner rider on her however, she turned into a pussy cat.

      I totally agree that pets can be a great help to children with disabilities, (and also children with behavioral problems).

      Really pleased you liked this hub, and thanks for the votes :)

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      8 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Pets can actually help children with disabilities. If you have a child with autism or a physical disability you can have them go to a place that offers horseback riding lessons to children with disabilities. Also, dogs seem to connect well with children with disabilities. I don't know why, but they do. My daughter has a high level of autism, we have 2 dogs. When she pets them, it is almost like they understand everything she is saying. She also rides horses. We have had a horse who we rescued from the racetrack. This horse became so gentile he became a horse used for children with disabilities. He loved the children that rode him, the ones with disabilities. I also have a friend who used to ride the bulls that buck people off, he told me he could make my horse gallop. It took my horse about 10 seconds to buck him off. But, when it came to the kids, he was so gentle. One child even ran under his stomach. All he did was stand still. That was all he did! Ok, I am yacking to much. This is a wonderful hub! Thanks for such a great hub. Voted up!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Bob, I am totally on the same page as you are, and pets should always be given adequate space and the prospective owners should always do their research before taking on any pet. This is one of the reasons I hate fish bowls, they are a horrible environment for a fish to live in and far too small.

    • diogenes profile image


      8 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Ha! We both did a "Pets" hub today.

      I agree with most of what you have said, but I do have a mild objection and would like to add that their enclosures must be adequate and not necessarily the cheapest and smallest you can find.

      I especially find fish are abused by lack of understanding and education by owners keeping them alone in something not much larger than a glass vase.

      But I do agree that teaching kids understanding of creatures and responsibility in looking after them is a good idea.


    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks robie2, it is always wonderful to have the first comment on a hub as nice as yours was. Glad you liked the hub and the videos too :)

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Nothing teaches kids love and compassion like taking care of a pet and growing up with pets is really important. What a good job you do explaining it sll. Wonderful videos and pix too.


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