Owning a pet is a wonderful learning experience for a child. It teaches them job responsibility, and how to care for another living thing. Before you get a pet for your child, however, be aware that even though your child may promise that they’ll look after their pet, you’ll more than likely bear the brunt of its care.

What type of pet would suit your family? There are lots of things to consider.

Firstly, what’s your family budget? Owning a dog or a cat can cost up to $1000 per year for food and routine health care. Should your pet become unwell or gets injured, that figure can skyrocket. If money is tight, consider a smaller pet that isn’t as costly to look after. Rats and birds can both be very sociable pets that will happily develop a great relationship with your child, but not send you broke. Keep in mind that both these animals are intelligent, and need attention and interaction. They don’t like being left alone.

How much space do you have? If you have a big backyard, your child may love to romp and play with a dog. If you live in a townhouse or apartment, you’ll find that many dogs would be unhappy in that environment. A cat would be ideal for you – they’re affectionate and will sit on your lap on the couch, but they don’t need too much space.

Busy families may not have much time for a dog. To keep a dog happy, they need exercise and training. Some dogs, such as herding breeds, need more exercise than others, but they all need to be walked. If you’re short of time, again consider a cat or a pocket pet such as a rat. You’ll have a pet that’s very happy to see you come home from work, but won’t expect an hour long hike when you’re weary.

Lastly, how old are your children? Young children may find it hard to live with a dog. Puppies have sharp teeth and may be nippy. Large dogs may knock them over. Small dogs can be fragile and may be dropped by young hands.

There is another consideration that relates to the age of your children. Often, the loss of a pet is a child’s first experience of death. Pet rats, mice and guinea pigs don’t have a long lifespan. Depending on the age of your child, you may not want to choose a pet that will only live a year or two, to allow your child to be older when that pet passes.

If you have no space, very limited money and no time to spend on a pet, you may enjoy an aquarium. Fish don’t need training, exercise or attention. They only need feeding and regular cleaning. Even though they’re not very interactive, they still allow your child to learn to be responsible for something other than themselves.

It’s so important that, when you’re choosing a pet, you select one that best suits your lifestyle. Choosing the wrong pet can not only make your life difficult, it could make your pet miserable. Spend some time planning, and both your family and your new pet will be happy with your decision.