Growing up with a pet can teach a kid a lot about life - responsibility, empathy, and how to play nicely. But how young is too young to bring a pet into your house?
CJ Bentley, animal behaviorist at the Michigan Humane Society, recommends waiting until your child is older so you can adjust to having a new baby in the house.
"It can be easier to add a pet when the child is old enough to follow basic guidelines like don't pick the cat up by his tail or don't put peas up the dog's nose," she explains. On a more serious note, she added, "Pets and children require constant supervision - you never know what either one is going to do."
The good news is that there are plenty of pets out there that play nice with children, and it's likely that you'll be able make it work in the future. Here are some basic points to consider before heading to the shelter:
How much time you have
A child is hard work, and lots of commitment. If you and your spouse work full time, discuss your schedules together and think about how much time and attention you'll have left over for a pet.
What kind of pet you get
You might have a certain type of pet in mind, but it's always worth asking your shelter worker for advice.
"It's probably best to look for a pet with 'kid experience,'" CJ recommends, "But if a nice, social dog or cat who loves people comes your way - go for it."
Creating safe zones
Always keep your child in a safe place where a new pet could never accidentally hurt her. Consider using gates to keep your pet and child in separate rooms at first, and make sure you or another adult is around to supervise.
Teach your growing child how to play nice with pets
Make sure you show your child how to softly pet and scratch a dog or cat, making sure to tell them "No" whenever they start to hit, kick or pull hair. This will help to ensure a pet doesn't get agitated and snap his teeth at your child.
Once you're confident that your family is ready for a pet, putting some extra thought into your adoption can make it an easier experience for you, your child, and the pet alike.