The lure of all things cute and fluffy is irresistible to most children and many adults - but you don't need to have your own pets to get your little ones used to animals.
Learning to care for animals and treat them with kindness is an experience that children can easily transfer to their relationships with other humans too - it helps to build empathy, understanding and respect for both their peers and adults.
But how can you provide your child with this valuable experience without having to go down the route of actually owning a pet?
Start in your local park or garden
Little children tend to have quick, jerky, unpredictable movements which can frighten animals - not a good start for a positive relationship between child and animal!
The best place to start exploring the wonders of the animal kingdom is in your back garden or local park where children can see creatures in their natural habitat.
Watching beetles, worms, ants and spiders go about their busy lives is fascinating to young children.
Look together under stones and leaves and talk about how the minibeasts move, what they eat and what they look like. Gradually, it will begin to dawn on your child that these are active living creatures just like them.
The 'a-ha' moment of realisation that animals need care, attention and kindness is the moment to cherish. The breakthrough can come when your child strokes the cat with a gentle hand, or lifts the hamster onto her lap - being careful not to drop them.
It takes time to foster this kind of respect - but it's well worth it as all these emotions of tenderness are transferred to the way they interact with other children and adults.