Pawsome Pet Chores for Your Children

By Jacqueline Saguin
Little girl playing with dog outside

Feb. 20 is National Love Your Pet Day! Do you feel it is about time your child adopted a sense of responsibility? If so, there’s no better opportunity than adopting a pet! Children enter a new realm of responsibility at this age. They no longer need someone to tie their shoes or clean up after every mess made at the dining room table. It’s their turn to learn.

How a pet can help your child grow

Right around the time your child starts elementary school, they focus less on themselves and more on others, turning attention to friendships and teamwork, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The responsibility learned from pet care leads to greater self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment, according to Dr. Jessie Stanley, a veterinarian and part-owner of the Newberry Animal Hospital.

But when it comes to pets, what can we realistically expect from an adolescent? Stanley recommended parents sit down with their child and make a “pet chore list.” Incorporate simple tasks into their daily routine. Here are a few chores that your child can do without too much supervision, but with that small dose of independence!

“Use positive reinforcement to reward the child for doing his or her ‘job’ by caring for the pet,” said Stanley. “Parents should always double-check to make sure the pet is being cared for, so it doesn’t get sick.”

What pet chores should my child do?

Pet chores differ for each animal, and the best pet match depends on both the parents’ and child’s comfortability. Some pets require more strict attention while others are easier to care for. Some require handling and some don’t. For the 6 to 9 age group, Dr. Stanley said hamsters and other rodents are great starter pets, as they require less space. But, if they aren’t handled regularly, they can become unfriendly, she said. Small birds like parakeets also require less space and attention but are more sensitive to environmental changes. Dogs and cats can work great for children in this age range, but they require a “whole family” commitment. Younger children may need more help with daily care, she said.

There’s potential to teach a large amount of responsibility, Stanley said. If presented correctly, children can see the importance of being thorough and that a pet’s care depends on them.

6 Simple Pet Chores

1. Pick up toys. Children can incorporate tasks they do for their pets into their own habits. It’s more practice for them and less stress for you!

2. Walk pets. This doesn’t necessarily mean giving your child free range with a leash – as they’re still too small and young to take on such a responsibility on their own. Instead, let your child join on walks. It lets them see the importance of exercise and a practiced routine.

3. Put out the pet’s food. Measure out the food portions, but let your child pour the food into the bowl and serve it to their pet. Give fresh water daily.

4. Playtime. Tossing a ball or running around the yard together works wonders in establishing a child-pet bond. Plus, it helps foster a sense of ownership and pride for the child.

5. Wipe up spills. This age group can recognize when a mess is made and know when to clean it up rather than let it sit. If a dog knocks over their water bowl, your child can take that initiative to quickly wipe it up.

6. Clean the pet cage and food bowls. It’s as simple as scooping out litter in a hamster cage or washing off a food bowl. Some pets can have diseases that can spread to others, so stress proper hygiene to kids like washing their hands before and after cleaning.

When Should Your Child be Allowed to Do Things on Their Own?