What Is a Pet?

K, 1, 2

This lesson encourages children to think about animals and animal welfare, particularly as it applies to pets. It will help them understand that animals need and want many of the basic things that humans need and want, and how humans can help provide those things for their pets.

PrintOne 30-minute class period

The learner will:

  • recall facts about different pets and pet care.
  • use critical thinking in response to literature and for graph making.
  • read-aloud copy of Oh, the Pets You Can Get!: All About Our Animal Friends By Tish Rabe
  • chart paper/white board for making charts and graph
  • Optional: dog puppet to use for the “Puppy Says” game
Teacher Preparation 

Prepare a bar or floor graph to go along with the book, labeling the graph with animals from the book.

Home Connection 

The learners share with their families what they have learned about pets during this lesson. If there is a pet at home ask the learners, with the help of family members to list what their pet(s) needs and how the family members help take care of a pet.


Rabe, Tish. Oh, the Pets You Can Get!: All About Our Animal Friends.  1998. Random House. New York .ISBN: 0-375-82278-X​


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Play "Puppy Says" with a dog puppet or stuffed animal. The puppy tells the students what to do to show how to care properly for pets. They listen carefully and only do the action if you say, "puppy says" first. 

    Hug yourself like you are hugging a pet.

    Pat an imaginary dog.

    Act out opening a can of food and putting it in a dish.

    Act out putting a leason on a dog and going for a walk.

    Put your imaginary pet snake in a cage.

    Put your imaginary pet rodent in its cage.

    Show how you treat your imaginary pet bird.

  2. Read the book, Oh, the Pets You Can Get!: All About Our Animal Friends by Tish Rabe. Ask students to recall details such as the following:

    • Why do Guinea Pigs need a ramp in their cage? (exercise)
    • Where do pet birds sleep? (in a cage)
    • Ask students to answer other questions about responsible pet care.
  3. Label a floor or bar graph with different types of pets. The students can help brainstorm the pets. Ask the learners to put a mark or block on the graph showing a pet that they have (or an animal that they would like to have) as a pet. 

    Discuss the graph using comparative language: Which animal do most of us have as pets? Which animal do the least of us have? Continue asking appropriate questions about the graph.

  4. Discuss why it is a big responsibility to take in a pet and why it should be discussed carefully before adopting. What happens if you adopt a pet and don't take good care of it? 

  5. Explain the homework assignment: Ask the learners to share with their families what they have learned about pets during these lessons. With the help of family members, ask the learner to list what pets need and how the family members may help in taking care of a pet.

  6. For younger students the teacher may want to create a letter to Families explaining the Pet Care unit and the homework.

Cross Curriculum 

Read about the service-learning project called Tate’s Giving Project by Illinois students who were taught using this Pet Care and Safety unit of lessons to guide student learning and action.

Ms. Dahleen is an inclusion facilitator from Illinois with a heart for philanthropy education. “Primary elementary students are by nature egocentric and just beginning to see how their actions and the actions of others impact their world,” said Dahleen. “We have always seen in our young students their ability to be compassionate and empathetic to animals much sooner than they are able to understand empathy for another person.”