Pets can be a wonderful addition to any family. From guinea pigs to dogs, pets can teach a child responsibility while having a wonderful furry friend. However, many parents allow their children to have a small animal or a fish as a “practice pet” or a prelude to a bigger animal. Many of these pets pass away due to poor care and attention. From broken bones to overall neglect, the idea of the practice pet must stop.

Parents need to understand that a child cannot practice on the life of an animal. Many humane societies will not allow parents to adopt if they are adopting on the basis of “teaching their children responsibility.” Even small pets like a guinea pig or a chinchilla are very fragile and require a lot of care. Babies and small children who do not know how to pet properly can accidently do great harm to a small animal.

Parents need to know that their children may want a pet very badly, but cannot comprehend the amount of work involved until they actually have a pet. Telling a child that “they are completely responsible for a possible pet” is not going to happen. Often times a child must be taught how to care for an animal. There will be mistakes and there will be things that are forgotten. It is up to a parent to watch a child closely while they’re doing their chores and to step in if there is a feeding missed.

practice pet

Children cannot understand long term. Fish, if well cared for, can live for years and need a nice big tank to live in. Guinea pigs can live for six years, so it’s hard for a six year old child to comprehend his or her lifetime as a commitment to getting a new pet. A family pet is exactly that, a family responsibility. These little critters must be treated like one of the family, where their privacy, health and well-being are respected.

A new pet can be a great asset for a new family but a parent must realize, the onus of its wellbeing relies on not just your child, but the whole family. The small pet should have its privacy respected, not be tossed or harshly treated. Loud noises scare small pets, so one cannot scream at it. They need to be fed regularly and a parent cannot rely on a child to do this all at the beginning. When these rules are respected a small animal can bring great joy to any family and be the perfect family member.