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Kids and Pets Interaction Guide

A guide to ages and species.

Infants

Primary Issues: Introduction to current pets 
Recommend: N/A 
Tasks for the Child: N/A 
Other Observations: Resident dogs and cats need gradual, supervised introduction to infants.

Toddler

Primary Issues: Curiosity; pulling, touching, etc. 
Recommend: N/A 
Tasks for the Child: N/A 
Other Observations: Care must be taken with dog food dishes, toys; litter boxes for cats; aquarium wires.

3-5 Years

Primary Issues: Learning about contact, empathy. 
Recommend: Guinea Pig 
Tasks for the Child: Filling water bottle and food dish 
Other Observations: Guinea pigs like to be held, seldom bite and will whistle when excited or happy.

5-10 Years

Primary Issues: Attention span is variable 
Recommend: Shelf pets or goldfish 
Tasks for the Child: Clean cages with adult help, supervised play with dogs/cats 
Other Observations: Adults should always check to ensure that pets have food/water and cages are secured.

10-13 Years

Primary Issues: Greater interest in pets and capacity for responsibility 
Recommend: Dogs, Cats, Rabbits 
Tasks for the Child: Feed pet; walk dog; clean rabbit cage; clean cat litter 
Other Observations: Children this age can be reliable, but adults should always check on food/water, etc. Participation in dog training classes are an excellent learning opportunity for children.

14-17 Years

Primary Issues: Competition for time and attention (i.e. Sports, clubs, etc.) 
Recommend: Birds, Aquariums 
Tasks for the Child: Most tasks. Use allowance to buy treats, etc. 
Other Observations: Developing interest as a fancier, more likely to do research or read about the species. Parents should note that dogs and cats acquired at this age will probably stay in the home when the child leaves for college, etc.

Guide by Stephen Zawistowski, Ph.D, ASPCA Executive Vice President of National Programs.