Having any pet, be it a few fish, or a dog that needs a lot of walking, or a cranky old cat that needs lots of tlc, is a big responsibility. When the children begged me to let them get a hamster, and we agreed to get one for Little Man’s birthday, I told them they would have to help look after her, including cleaning her out. I want them to learn that having a pet is fun, that they are part of the family, but also that they need to take a little responsiblity.
I’m quite strict about enforcing this. I remind them to change her water daily, and they give her food and treats (supervised) but I also make them help me clean her out. Sometimes there is protest but most of the time they are willing.
With a little help & instruction (and I do the fiddly bits like making sure the cage is put back together properly) they are pretty good hamster owners and do the job pretty well.
You can see Nibbles in her ball (yes, that’s duct tape, she needs a new ball, I know!) making sure we do things the way she likes them and the children wash, dry and prepare her cage. Nibbles likes to make her own nest so we just leave the bedding for her to arrange to her liking. Fresh food, clean water, and she’s good to go back in and get cozy.
Other things they do with our animal menagerie to help are feeding the cats in the evening (I’m not mean, I don’t make them get up to feed cats at 6am, that’s Daddy’s job ?) and clean out their bowls and food trays. They also help to clean out the snails and feed them, and spray the tank regularly with water, and they feed the fish once a day. It’s just basic stuff but it’s good for them to learn and be a part of things.
I was determined to not be one of those parents who gets pets for their kids then ends up doing all the work. So far, so good. One day, I’ve promised them we might get a dog, which is what they’d really like, but not until they are old enough to really help look after it (and clean up puppy piddle puddles) the cats probably won’t approve!