As I write this, my 8-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter are cleaning a hamster cage and a gerbil cage. I'm such a mean mom, right? Not exactly. They're willing participants and there are several reasons kids with pets should be doing things like this. Our first hamster was neglected by children in another family before we adopted him. It happens more often than some realize. But it can be prevented.
Respect and love for animals starts early
It's more difficult, though still possible, to teach an adult to do things differently than it is to teach kids about something right from the start. The earlier a child starts learning how to have compassion for animals, the better. Part of that includes providing them with the things they cannot provide for themselves, like clean water, a clean cage, and food. If your child is neglecting the hamster, please address it immediately.
If your child is going to “own” a pet, they also own the responsibility
Owning an animal means caring for that animal. Helping kids care for their first hamster is all about responsibility from the start. If your child adopts a hamster but you end up being the one to clean the cage, provide food and water, provide stimulation, and handle other care, this defeats the purpose. If your child is not ready for all that, your child is not ready for a pet. All parents should properly help their child adopt a hamster with preparation.
Having pets teaches further responsibility and life lessons
By learning how to provide for a hamster, your child will learn important life skills that all humans can learn from a hamster. They will also learn many other life lessons from hamster care that can be applied elsewhere.This might be practice for babysitting, working elsewhere, or even as preparation for caring for oneself. Kids with pets should be learning how to budget for their care, what types of food they need and how often, what stimulation is appropriate, how to be gentle, and much more.
Does your child have a hamster or other pet? Are they caring for them as they should? Please leave your thoughts and concerns in the comments section below.
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