What do children learn from pets?


Our family loves cats, although we have nothing against dogs. It is simply a preference. When our children were young we had an assortment of cats, each with its owndistinct personality. We also had a menagerie of fish, lizards, mice, turtles, gerbils and budgie birds.

Having pets was often messy, sometimes inconvenient and many times stinky. Pets can also be expensive. So why did we bother?

I believe our children learned valuable lessons having pets.

They learned patience and responsibility. Animals need to be cared for, and if a cat wants food it won’t let up until it gets fed.

They experienced compassion and empathy. I remember my great big 13 year son softlycradling an injured cat in his arms.

They learned cause and effect. If you don’t change the aquarium water, your whole bedroom smells.

The children also learned about the realities of life and death. They saw guppies being born and tearfully said goodbye to beloved cats and gerbils.

They experienced unconditional love, not so much from the lizards but definitely from the cats. When life was unfair they could hug the cat.

Having pets is a commitment and requires responsible parental involvement. Small children need to be taught to be gentle. Young ones have to learn that pets are not toys. One time I asked my 3 year old son to put away his toys; a little later I heard a soft meowing and discovered the cat, along with my son’s toys, stored neatly in the toy box. Children will require reminders to feed and water their pets.

Pets are not for everyone and the decision to add a pet to the family can be a major decision. I found the effort worthwhile; the memories and anecdotes have lovingly added to our family union.

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