We love pet books. Stories about cats and dogs are a gentle way to introduce the idea of pets to your children if you're thinking about adding one to the family.
Picking out the best children’s books about pets is an impossible task – there are just so many classic dog books and cat titles to choose from.
But with the help of distinguished literary critics Taliesin (aged three) and Marley (two) we’ve put together a selection that’s sure to delight and entrance.
Tali and Marley have three furry siblings – Diggory the tabby cat, Wallace the Karakachan and Millie the crossbreed. So who better to give their verdict on some established classics and newer titles?
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…
Children's books about dogs
A selection of fiction and non-fiction, each with a valuable life lesson.
The Hospital Dog – Julia Donaldson
In typically catchy rhyming style, Donaldson’s latest canine caper tells the story of Dot, a brave and kind Dalmatian.
Three year old Tali was joining in the repetitions – “NO, SHE’S NOT!” – on the very first read through and there were gasps of shock from both children when our spotted hero risks her life to save a small boy. Unsurprisingly, it’s been first choice at story time here for several nights in a row.
Tali says: “Why does that girl have no hair? What’s that computer for? Why does she have a wheelchair? Why’s that baby crying? Why…?”
What it teaches kids: A gentle introduction to the concept that some children get poorly, hospital life and recovery. There are so many details in the background that you’ll find yourself answering questions on every page, helping preschoolers build an imaginative background story to Dot’s world.
Easy Peasy Awesome Pawsome Dog Training for Kids – Steve Mann
This approachable little book is aimed at children from about eight years up, so we weren’t really the target audience. But both children have already begun to learn about how to behave around the dogs and we already do some mini trick training sessions.
For younger children, I found that the book worked well if you read the steps to the child first then went through each one as they tried it out.
For older children it’s got some great tips for building a strong relationship and learning what they can do for their dog and what their dog can do for them.
Marley says: “Sit Millie… sit Millie… si– she did it!”
What it teaches kids: Responsibility. The training exercises give everyone a clear job to do that’s really fun too.
Jazz Dog – Marie Voigt
This simple but charming tale starts in an uncompromising binary world where cats only play jazz and dogs only play rock. Until, yes, you’ve guessed it, one little dog breaks the musical mould and busts some social stereotypes.
It’s another bookshelf staple alongside Zog and Giraffes Can’t Dance If you’re a ‘dinosaurs aren’t just for boys, unicorns aren’t just for girls’ kind of household. But with a smokey film noir aesthetic.
Tali says: “I like the cat who says he should play the music anyway.”
What it teaches kids: Inclusivity and to dance to the beat of your own drum (or sax).
Where’s Wallace? – Rod Hunt
There are quite a few options for personalised children’s dog books, including ones where your kids feature in a picture book adventure alongside their pet.
But when one of your pets is actually called Wallace, this ‘find the dog’ paperback from Yappy is impossible to resist.
Ok, so the children didn’t appreciate the delightful pun but their dad could hardly contain himself when he opened the parcel. And I think Wallace liked it too.
Tali says: “You can read this to Wallace when it’s his bedtime.”
What it teaches kids: That their dog is so special he has his very own book, all about him.
Children’s books about cats
Four feel-good feline stories that your kids can learn something from.
Goodbye Mog – Judith Kerr
Most of the Mog books are over 30 years old now but they’ve aged pretty well. Tali and Marley are established fans, yet I’ve previously shied away from this latest instalment published in 2004 which deals with the demise of everyone's favourite literary tabby.
But sadly my children have had to navigate the death of two family pets already in their short lives – one cat and one dog – and Tali especially has really been finding the permanence of death hard to grasp. There have been frequent tears about our dog not being able to come back.
So with some trepidation we opened the cover. The death itself is so swift, gentle and matter of fact that it’s done with on the first page and the rest of the book sees Mog helping the Thomas’s (“They’ll never manage without me”) with a troublesome new kitten.
I might have been fighting the tears a bit by the end, but the children seemed genuinely accepting of Kerr’s circle of life explanation.
Marley says: “Mog died but then she flew to the sun”
What it teaches kids: That death is a fact of life, it’s ok to be sad and to move on.
Six Dinner Sid – Inga Moore
We’ve mostly gone for newer publications but there’s room for a bit of nostalgia in this list and this was the title most fondly remembered by the ManyPets team.
I’ve got my own Six Dinner Sid. Our cat Diggory regularly saunters through the cat flap, fat and warm, smelling of wood smoke (we don’t have a fireplace). The children really enjoyed this theory about where he goes in his free time.
All the best children’s books are just as much fun for the parents reading and it’s really hard not to chuckle at Sid’s multiple names and personalities he puts on to match.
Tali says: "He was naughty so he had to keep going to the vet."
What it teaches kids: That honesty is the best policy. When all Sid’s owners know about his capers he still gets his dinners – but without the multiple vet trips.
They All Saw a Cat – Brenden Wenzel
This has to win the prize for the prettiest title here. It’s like a coffee table book with each page painted in a different style and from the perspective of a different animal.
There were lots of good conversation starters, from how bats see with sound to worms understanding the world through vibrations. The repetition caught on quickly too.
Marley says: “The worm made the cat go wiggly.”
What it teaches kids: Empathy and understanding the perspective of others.
Negative Cat – Sophie Blackall
Poor Max. He’s adopted from the cat shelter and doesn’t want to play. He just turns his back and is branded a ‘negative cat’.
Luckily, his young owner won’t give up on him and he and Max the cat find a way to help each other.
Slightly older children will enjoy the comic book style speech bubbles – and may identify with the nagging too.
Tali says: “They can’t send the cat back!”
What it teaches kids: The power of unconditional love… and reading stories aloud.