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Age-appropriate Responsibilities for Your Kids Regarding the Family Pet

by Editorial Team | February 28th, 2020 | Elementary

Many parents struggle to decide when the best time is to get a family pet. Should they wait until their kids are older and better equipped to cope with the responsibility of taking care of an animal? Or should they get the pet when their children are still young so that they can all grow up together? 

There is no right or wrong answer. The key is to ensure that every child plays a part in caring for the new pet, being careful to assign various responsibilities that are age-appropriate andcontinue to evolve as your children get older. Here are some suggestions. 

For children under the age of 10

When your child reaches the age of four or five, you can start assigning them real responsibilities regarding their beloved dog or cat. The best approach to this is to assign them only one primary responsibility and insist that said responsibility is carried out every single day. A single duty is easy to focus on and difficult to forget and will make it more likely for your child to follow through consistently.

Kids between four and five can be responsible for brushing the cat or dog, or perhaps playing with them for at least half an hour every day. Kids between six and seven can be responsible for ensuring that the pet’s water bowl is always full of fresh water or topping up their food bowl throughout the day. Between the ages of eight and nine, your child can shoulder the responsibility of giving their pet a good bath every few weeks, while kids older than that can start taking on the duty of ensuring that their pet gets plenty of exercise in the form of walks and playtime. 

For children over the age of 10 

Once kids reach the double digits, they will be more than capable of taking on more than one individual responsibility when it comes to their pets. Some parents may choose to assign a handful of duties and keep them consistent over the years, while others will opt instead to rotate the various duties from family member to family member. The latter approach may be a good idea if you have kids who are all keen to have the opportunity to take the dog for walks or to feed the cat. 

By the time your child is a teenager, you can even insist that they begin to shoulder part of the financial responsibility of owning a pet, especially if the pet is ‘theirs’. This may include paying for a portion of the annual bills when taking the dog or cat to see a reputable vet, such as those at, or paying for the animal’s grooming sessions if they decide that they don’t want to groom them themselves. 

You may even want to allow your child or teen to decide which responsibilities they want to take on – within reason, of course. If they have a say in the matter, they will often be more likely to follow through. 

Ultimately, there are countless benefits to owning a pet, and teaching your kids all about responsibility is just one of them.

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