Pondering The Perfect Pet

Cute, playful, mischievous pets will capture the attention of even your most reluctant learners.

By Cathy Neushul



Even if they don’t have a family pet themselves, all students can relate to the enjoyment of having a cat, dog, bird, iguana, or rabbit of their own. In books and movies, the relationship between children and their animals is immortalized. Who didn’t fall in love with the dog in Because of Winn Dixie, Lassie, or Clifford The Big Red Dog?

Use pets as a perfect lead-in to engage your students in reading, writing, and math activities centered on one of their favorite topics—the family pet. Every learner will end up having a motivating and enjoyable experience.

Share Pet Stories

Kids love to talk about pets. Have them describe a pet and an experience they have had with that pet. It could be their own pet, a neighbor's pet, a friend's pet, any pet they are excited about discussing. Encourage them to be as descriptive as possible. As they share their stories, write a list on the board for everyone to see. The list should show the type of pet, including the breed and color of the pet, and a few sentences that summarize each story.

After students are done, have them talk about any unusual pets they have heard about. Along these lines, share any stories you may know. For example, I met a pet pig named Rambo walking down the beach one day. His owner told me that he is a mini Juliana, and his best friend is a cat. Every time I see Rambo at the beach, with his little pig-tail wagging, I start thinking how wonderful it would be to have a pig just like him.

Reasons to Adopt a Pet

Next, have your class come up with a list of pros and cons relating to pet adoption. Have them make a list of reasons to adopt a pet, such as companionship, or to have an exercise buddy. Then, have them list some of the things people should consider before adopting a pet. For example, they should find out whether animals are permitted in their house or complex, decide whether they are willing to pay the extra expenses incurred in responsible pet ownership, and whether they are able to feed and clean up after their pet.

In order to help pupils get a better idea of what pet ownership entails, you can have them make a list of the things they would have to do each day to take care of a particular pet. If they had a cat, for example, they could list how many times they would feed their cat, give it water, and clean its litter box. Then, you can have your students determine how much it would cost to properly care for their pet. Gve them handouts with information on the cost of veterinary care, shots, food, and other supplies, or you can have students visit websites in order to search for this information. Afterward, ask each learner, or group of learners to make a list of the items they would need for their chosen pet. Next to each item, they should list the cost. Of course, the final step is to add up the total projected expenses. This is a good place to stress that pets sometimes get sick or hurt, and then extra money is needed. 

The Benefits of Pet Ownership

A good way to emphasize the positive effects of pet ownership is through sharing real-life stories. The American Humane Association has a link to adoption stories that are touching. You can share these adoption stories with your class. They will enjoy hearing the affect Django, Scooby Do, Chester, and Emily had on their families’ lives.

Learners can then write a persuasive essay sharing the reasons why they think pet adoption is a good idea. Or why they think someone should opt not to adopt a pet.

Additional Lesson Plans to Consider:

The Perfect Pet

Learners use critical thinking skills to match customers in a pet shop to their ideal pet. This is a great way to identify the characteristics of different types of pets, and analyze why they would be best for certain types of pet owners. 

Pet Perspective

This resource uses a novel technique to help kids learn about pets. They tell a story from the perspective of a pet. A guide is used to create stories focusing on their family, or a day in the life of their pet.

The Pet Overpopulation Dilemma

The class discusses the challenges of pet overpopulation. They talk about the ways that overpopulation is addressed. Then, they spend some time discussing both domesticated and wild animals.

Fabulous Felines

All pets depend on their owners to keep them safe. Here, your class will learn about the ways to keep cats safe. Pet safety is an important issue that should be discussed prior to pet adoption. 

Science Guide

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Cathy Neushul

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