Help! Our kids want a pet!

“Mom, dad! I want a dog for my birthday!” is something many parents will have heard before. At some point many children suddenly decide they want a pet. Be it a hamster, a dog or a cat – everything is possible! Of course, no one normally buys a pet without thinking carefully first and discussing with their child the responsibilities that are involved. But can you discuss the costs with your kids? Should you?

A great opportunity to learn

For small pets, the most important considerations are feeding them, cleaning out their pens and cages, and caring for them during vacations. And it’s only right that these things are discussed. After all, the parents shouldn’t end up doing all the work – the children should help too. The costs of owning a pet should also be discussed. The fact that your child takes an interest in the animal means they have the ideal opportunity to learn something new. So why not sit down together and make a list of all the costs?

How can I explain to my child how much our pet costs?

The costs can be discussed at different levels of complexity, depending on your child’s age. But regardless of how old they are, it’s important they understand that pets cost money. Even if a school friend gifts them a guinea pig pup for free, it still needs a pen and bedding. Visits to the vet may also be necessary. Pet ownership involves both one-time and recurring costs. Distinguishing between the two and making a list of the individual costs is a good way for your child to learn.

Compare costs and make a decision

Even if you make a list of the one-time and recurring costs, the numbers will be very abstract for many kids and won’t mean much to them. We recommend comparing the costs with something that your child understands, like their monthly allowance or a trip to the swimming pool or the movies. How much allowance would they need to save to buy one month’s worth of pet food? This helps children put the amounts in perspective and understand that pets cost money.

Subscribe to the Kids newsletter

Check out the latest articles on teaching kids about money and discover great contests and info about the UBS Kids Cup.

After this conversation the most important question then arises: should we buy a pet or not? In strictly financial terms, the answer is “yes” if the family’s monthly budget allows, and if it can be assumed that these costs will not change during the lifetime of the pet. This can also be discussed with your child. As a pet is normally a family “project,” it makes sense for the costs to be borne by the parents. However, if the animal is required for a hobby such as horseback riding, you could certainly also discuss using money from their allowance, part-time job or similar.


The main points in a nutshell

  • Owning a pet is a good opportunity for children to learn about money.
  • Pets incur both one-time and recurring costs. This is something children need to understand.
  • The costs of pet ownership should be compared with something children are familiar with.
  • Check whether the costs of a pet lie within the family budget.

UBS’s educational principles

This article was written in collaboration with educator Marianne Heller, who has years of experience in teaching financial education and debt prevention programs for children and young people.

Subscribe to the Kids newsletter

Check out the latest articles on teaching kids about money and discover great contests and info about the UBS Kids Cup.