Responsibility for a pet can be shared by even the youngest members of the family.



“Little kids can help take care of pets with adult supervision,” said Angie Wood, director of operations for the Naperville Area Human Society in Naperville, Ill. “It’s a good way for them to learn responsibility.



“Pets benefit tremendously when kids help with their care. They develop relationships with the kids.”



Below are some age-appropriate tasks to get kids involved in pet care:

Responsibility for a pet can be shared by even the youngest members of the family.

“Little kids can help take care of pets with adult supervision,” said Angie Wood, director of operations for the Naperville Area Human Society in Naperville, Ill. “It’s a good way for them to learn responsibility.

“Pets benefit tremendously when kids help with their care. They develop relationships with the kids.”

Below are some age-appropriate tasks to get kids involved in pet care:


TODDLERS

Dog

A toddler can help feed the dog. If an adult measures out the right amount of food into a cup, the child can dump it into the bowl.

Cat

Youngsters love to pour. An adult can fill a small watering can and let the child use it to fill Fluffy’s water bowl.

Fish

If an adult pours out the correct amount of food, a toddler can sprinkle it over the fish bowl. Make sure your child washes his or her hands afterward.

Hamster

A toddler can place pieces of carrots and lettuce in the little critter’s cage or food bowl.

Bird

Teach your child to help keep an eye on Polly’s water bowl and alert an adult when it’s getting low.


PRESCHOOLER

Dog

A preschooler can brush Rover with adult supervision.

Cat

Teach your child to clean a cat’s food and water bowls.

Fish

Preschool kids can feed fish and help clean tanks with help from an adult.

Hamster

Your child can fill the food bowl and water bottle with adult help.   

Bird

Preschoolers can place filled food and water bowls in cages.


ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Dog   

Kids at this age level can practice simple tricks like “roll over” with the dog and play ball in the backyard.

Cat

A child in elementary school can change a kitty litter box with adult help.

Fish

Let your child feed fish on his or her own after an adult has demonstrated the proper amount.

Hamster

A child this age can help clean the cage with adult supervision.

Bird

Elementary-school kids can fill Polly’s food and water bowls after an adult shows him or her the correct amount.


MIDDLE SCHOOL

Dog

Kids can brush the pooch and teach the pet new tricks.

Cat

A middle-schooler can change Fluffy’s kitty litter boxes.

Fish

Teach your child how to clean the fish bowl, and then let your youngster take over the chore.

Hamster

A middle-schooler can clean the little critter’s cage.

Bird

Your child can change Polly’s cage papers.


HIGH SCHOOL

Dog

In addition to basic care like feeding and brushing, high-schoolers can walk Rover and attend obedience classes.

Cat

A teen is capable of a cat’s complete care, but these students might be too busy. In such a case, the teen can help with chores like cleaning kitty litter and feeding.

Fish

A teenager can research what types of fish to purchase and what care they will need. A teen also can care for a small fish tank.

Hamster

A high-schooler can provide the entire care of hamsters or guinea pigs. But many teens are too busy to care for pets without help.

Bird

Allow your child to manage the care of some birds, if he or she is not too busy. Canaries, society finches and budgies are a few examples of birds that make good pets.

Sources: Angie Wood, director of operations, Naperville Area Humane Society; www.loveyourdog.com; www2.scholastic.com, “Age Appropriate Pets”; www.choresandallowances.com; http://parenting.kaboose.com, “Top Pets for Preschoolers”; www.wondertime.go.com; www.cockatielcottage.net; www.birdchannel.com