The Best Picture Books about Pets and How to Care for Them

Katie Merkel

Hello everyone!

If you have children, then you are probably no stranger to being begged for a pet…or multiple pets. As an animal lover who has had dogs, cats, rabbits, and parakeets, I have always been in the category of “the more the merrier” (much to my father’s consternation). Whether you want tons of pets, one pet, or no pets, I hope you will enjoy my pet picture book recommendations.

For your and your animal lover’s reading pleasure, I have listed 15 fabulous fiction picture books that celebrate the fun of having a pet, comedize the struggle of children trying to get their parents to let them get a pet, and/or that point out the work that goes into caring for a pet. I also recommended three non-fiction picture book series that highlight what it takes to be a responsible pet owner for specific animals. Each series is appropriate for a different age level ranging from preschool through 5th grade. Take the animal fun a step farther by checking out the animal crafts (sorted by pet type), pet-related writing assignments, and science experiments you can do with your pets that I included at the end of the post.

Picture Books

Dear Zoo

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell is a lift the flap book about the zoo sending animals to the narrator, who asked for a pet, and the narrator sending them back because they are not the right pet.

I Spy Pets by Edward Gibbs introduces each pet with the phrase “I spy”; describes the texture or the animal’s skin, feathers, or fur; and has the animal say what it likes to eat. Then, the reader turns the page and sees what the animal is. The pages have a hole in them for the animals’ eyes and a close up of the animals’ skin, feathers, or fur.

Can I Keep It? by Lisa Jobe is about a boy who keeps catching wild animals and asking his mother if he can keep them. His mother describes what each animal likes to do and asks her son where he would want to live if he were that type of animal. Every time, he does the right thing and lets the animal go until finally, he finds the right type of animal that would want to live with a boy like him.

The Grumpy Pets by Kristine A. Lombardi is about a boy named Billy who is always unhappy. His mom hopes that taking him to the pet store will cheer him up, but all the animals there are just too happy for Billy. Then, Billy discovers the grumpy pets and finds a pet that is just right for him.

Bad Dog by Mike Boldt is about a little girl who wanted a dog for her birthday but got a cat named Rocky instead. However, the girl is convinced that Rocky is a dog and treats her and tries to train her like a dog. Rocky is a bad dog, but in the end, the girl concludes that Rocky would make a great cat.

Can I Be Your Dog by Troy Cummings is a series of letters between Arfy, a stray who wants a home, and the residents of Butternut Street, who don’t want to adopt a dog. The final letter exchange is between the mail carrier, who wants to be Arfy’s person, and Arfy, who is happy to finally have a home.

Some Pets by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel describes different features and skills that pets can have and concludes that regardless a pet can be a friend.

If I Had a Raptor by George O’Connor details how a little girl would care for a raptor if she had one as a pet.

My Pet Wants a Pet by Elise Broach, illustrated by Eric Barclay is about a boy who begged his mother for a puppy until she finally said yes. The boy does such a great job taking care of his puppy that the puppy wants a pet of his own. This continues from pet to pet until the boy’s mother has had enough.

I Won a What? by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Robert Neubecker is about a boy whose parents won’t let him get a pet with fur, feathers, or that eats live food, but they promise that he can keep anything he wins at the goldfish booth. Only the boy doesn’t win a goldfish. He wins a whale!

I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff, illustrated by David Catrow is a series of letters between Alex, who is trying to convince his mom to let him adopt his friend’s baby iguana, and his mother, who does not want an iguana and is not convinced that Alex is responsible enough to have a pet.

The Perfect Pet by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Bruce Whatley is about a girl named Elizabeth who desperately wants a pet but whose parents are dead set against having one. Elizabeth tries many different approaches to get them to approve one pet, but they all fail. Then, Elizabeth finds the perfect pet that meets all her parents’ requirements…and makes them wonder whether it would have been better to get a dog.

How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, illustrated by John Rocco gives instructions for how to catch and train a pet train.

Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones is about a boy who gets a goldfish named Norman for a birthday gift. The boy wants to trade Norman in for a different pet; however, as he spends time with Norman, he comes to love the fish.

Fairy Tale Pets by Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Jorge Martín is about Bob and his dog, Rex. In an effort to earn money, they start a pet sitting service. However, instead of cats, dogs, and small animals, people bring them fairy tale pets. Chaos ensues.

Non-fiction

Family Pet Series by Julie Murray

In the Family Pet Series each book gives an overview of the basic physical characteristics of the featured animal and what is needed to care for that type of pet. At the back is a picture glossary of the pet care items mentioned and the vocabulary terms that were bolded in purple in the text. This series is ideal for children in Preschool-Grade 2.

In the Do You Really Want a Pet? Series each book gives an overview of the responsibilities associated with owning that specific type of pet and ends with a short quiz. The quiz either helps readers to determine whether or not that animal is the best pet for their lifestyle or which breed or species in that animal category would make the best pet for their lifestyle. This series is ideal for children in Pre-K-Grade 2.

Pet Care Series by Bobbie Kalman (additional author mentioned beside book title), photos by Marc Crabtree, illustrations by Margaret Amy Reiach

In the Pet Care Series each book gives an overview of what the animal is, how to determine whether or not it is the right pet for your lifestyle, and how to properly care for that pet. This series is ideal for children in Grades 2-5.

Crafts

Birds

Cats

Dogs

Fish

Reptiles: Iguanas, Snakes, and Turtles

Rodents: Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Mice, and Rabbits

English Assignments

  • Write a paragraph about your pet or the pet you wish you had. Why is that pet the best? (1st grade through 5th grade)
  • Write a story about your pet or the pet you wish you had. Make sure your story has a beginning, middle, and end. (3rd grade through 5th grade)
  • Research how to care for and train your pet or the pet you wish you had. Write a five-paragraph essay about why that pet is the best pet and how to care for and train it. (4th grade through 5th grade)

Science Experiments to Do with Your Pet

  • “Doing Science With Your Cat!” by Dani Trotman
  • Cat’s Taste Preference Experiment: As a child, I did a taste preference science experiment with my cats. For one week, I laid out four equally filled bowls of water every morning. One bow contained water and salt, one contained water and lemon juice, one contained water and sugar, and the other bowl just contained water. Every morning, I measured how high on a ruler the water in each bowl came and wrote down the numbers for each bowl. Every afternoon, I measured again and recorded the numbers. At the end of the week, I transferred the numbers to a chart. Looking at my chart, I was able to determine which water my cats liked best.
  • “Are Dogs Colorblind?” by Education.com
  • “Do dogs have a color preference?” by Eddie Lord (This link is to Eddie Lord’s final project. You can have your child repeat the experiment by following the Procedure portion of the project.)
  • “What science fair projects can I do with a hamster or a rat?” by Robbi

Happy reading!

Katie

P.S.

For more themed book recommendations and activities, visit my post library.