What Pet-Related Chores Can My Kids Do and Should I Pay Them For It?

YP Editors

Pet-related chores are a very common way for parents to introduce their children to caregiving and household responsibilities. There are no set rules around whether or not kids should be paid for this work, although certainly it’s common to give an allowance depending on satisfactory completion of chores—including pet cleanup. In addition to serving as a motivator, the money-chore exchange can also be a valuable introduction to the concepts of saving and money management.

Start Small

In many households, kids are only allowed a pet once they’re deemed ready—and willing—to clean up after it. And a lot of parents start out with pets that require less care, like fish, turtles, hamsters, or guinea pigs. Once the kids prove they’re able to clean out a cage every week (with supervision), feed their pet, and make sure it has water, then they might earn their way to a higher-maintenance companion like a cuddly puppy or kitten.

The chores that children are tasked with earliest are usually feeding the pets, giving them water, and assisting in grooming the more mild-mannered of animals. Experts say this can begin in elementary school, and that, by third grade, many children are also able to take on cage- and litter-box-cleaning responsibilities with supervision. By the tween years, kids can usually take on some of the responsibility for walking/playing with dogs, poop-scooping, and cleanup for all pets. And teens should be able to take care of all of this with minimal oversight.

Kids should always be looked after while performing chores, not only to make sure they’re giving adequate consistent care and maintaining their own hygiene, but also to make sure that they’re keeping up with their responsibilities and not cutting corners.

What to Pay

When it comes to paying for chores, however, there’s no set answer. In fact, people who grew up under one system will often choose another for their own children. Those in favor of paying for chores often believe they’re teaching their children about work ethic and financial responsibility. People who are against it might contend that it teaches children not to care about personal responsibility unless there’s incentive. And with pet chores, there’s also the risk that the pets will go without care if the kids shirk their responsibilities.

One rule that child development experts, personal finance mavens, and parenting experts agree on: If a kid is performing chores over and above the regular expectations, it’s fair to compensate them. So, if your tween has the hamster cage and kitty feeding on their regular chore chart, but offers to clean the litter box for an extra $5 a week, that’s an excellent lesson in labor economics.