A phrase that all parents probably hear at some point or another from their children is “Can we please get a dog?” Or goldfish, hamster, cat – whatever has taken their fancy at some point in time.

Anybody who knows kids knows they are fascinated by animals. And I mean all animals. My kids learned the names of all the farm and zoo animals way before they could count.

Old McDonald even had elephants and rhinos on his farm so we could trumpet and stomp our way around the living room!

Apparently this fascination is caused by something called biophilia which is a theory that suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living things.

While that may or may not be the reason, there is no denying that kids benefit a great deal from having pets of their own or interacting with animals.

Remembering to feed pets and clean out cages, kennels or hutches teaches them how to be responsible, nurturing and also cause and effect. If they do not change the hamster’s water then the hamster will get sick. If they take good care of the puppy, he will be happy and healthy and love playing with them.

Pets also have been proven to counteract stress and they can provide affection and companionship.

Did you know that the kind of personality you have can even be determined by your choice of a cat or dog? There have been psychological studies on the personality traits in both camps.

So, if you do find yourself in the market for a family pet (face it, there is no way the kids will look after the pet themselves!) then here are some things you might want to consider:

  • How old your children are

The last thing you want is an age inappropriate pet, for instance a tiny guinea pig and an inquisitive toddler who likes to put things in their mouth is probably not a great match!

Whatever animal you get, remember that kids are naturally curious and be there to monitor their interaction with your pet at all times – or at least until you are comfortable they remember the ground rules. The last thing you want is a pre-schooler trying to find out what happens if he takes the goldfish and tucks him into bed!

  • How much money you want to spend

For some animals, in addition to the costs of acquiring the animal, vaccinations, medications, toys, food and random vets’ bills can quickly add up. Have a look at how much you want to spend every month on a pet before you make a decision as to what pet to get.

  • How much space you have

It is not rocket science – some cute tiny puppies grow into huge dogs. Just make sure that you think of this when you are getting your pet. Having a huge English sheepdog or Great Dane bouncing off the walls of your two bedroom apartment might look funny in a movie but probably does not translate well into real life!

Whatever you eventually decide to get, rest assured you will have endless moments of joy gleaned from the bond your child will forge with their new pet.

Who knows, you might even rear a pet lover who becomes a Vet later in life. A love of animals begins early, and if your child is showing a love of animals early on, a career working as a veterinarian might not be such a bad idea. You never know what you might foster by simply saying yes to the question “can I have a pet?”