Having a childhood pet can be one of life’s greatest joys. Pets teach children about empathy, responsibility, and unconditional love. So how do you know whether your own child is ready for a pet? Here are some factors to consider when making that decision:

Does your child show interest in animals? – Not every child likes animals and some may even be afraid. Has your child asked for a pet? Gauge whether your child is interested in a pet before bringing one home.

Does your child have allergies? – If you’re not sure, you may want to expose your child to other animals or have them tested at the doctor to see if they could be allergic.  Go to your local shelter and let them spend time with the cats or a dog. That’s so much easier than adopting and then returning a pet that your child has fallen in love with.

Does your child do well with other peoples’ pets? – Create opportunities for your child to have supervised interaction with the pets of friends or family members. Is your child able to slow down and engage in calm behavior?  You want to ensure that your child can be gentle with any pet that you have.

Does your child listen to instructions? – Kids don’t always know how to interact appropriately with animals so it’s important that they can listen and follow directions in order to learn.  If your child goes to grab a cat’s tail, you want to feel confident that they will stop if you tell them no.

Does your child help with chores? –If you expect your child to be the one to take care of the new pet, have they already shown that they are responsible? If your child is already helping out around the house and completes chores without a problem, then it is more likely that they will help with a pet as well.  Are you willing to take care of the pet if your child does not?

Does your child have time for a pet? – Many kids have schedules filled with numerous activities.  If you would like them to be able to help with the care of your pet, make sure that your child’s schedule allows time for this.

If you decide that everyone in your family is ready for a pet, make sure that the pet you choose is also okay with children.  Some pets are great with children, others don’t do well kids, even if they are great with adults.  Keep safety in mind and make sure that you get a pet that will be okay with the less predictable behavior of a child. Remember also, children should always be supervised, even with the family pets.