Below you'll find a selection of pet themed children's picture books I personally recommend. For each book, I have included a summary and a two-page spread so you can get an idea of the illustrations and writing style. The books are separated into seven categories: choosing pets; dogs & puppies; cats & kittens; fish, reptiles, & critters; exotic pets; losing a pet & grief; and pet-themed series.
Books About Choosing a Pet
What Pet to Get? (Emma Dodd)
A boy considers which type of pet he'd like, but his mother reminds him why the various exotic animals would not work well at home. He finally decides one a puppy, but there is still something a bit off about the one he chooses. This funny book will get kids smiling and deciphering between animals that make good pets and ones that should stay outside.
What Pet Should I Get? (Dr. Seuss)
If your kids are Dr. Seuss fans they will love this book about a brother and sister tasked with choosing just one pet. They explore all the options, including some made-up ones. This book is also great to pair with decision-making activities, if you have older kids.
I Want a Pet (Lauren Child)
Lauren Child is the creator of one of my favorite children's cartoons, Charlie and Lola. If you have seen it, you will immediately see the likeness between the little girl in this book and the rambunctious Lola. Much like the boy in What Pet to Get?, this girl just loves the idea of exotic animals, but her family reminds her that they wouldn't be the best pets.
Some Pets (Angela Diterlizzi)
This simple text introduces the many different pets a person can have and the features that make them distinctive. It's easy to leave, beautifully illustrated and comes with a labeled diagram of the different types of pets in the back.
Books About Dogs & Puppies
Can I Be Your Dog? (Troy Cummings)
A friendly dog named Arfy writes letters to a number of people in his community, explaining why he'd be a good dog to adopt. He gets rejection letter after rejection letter until a new person writes him her own letter, explaining why she'd be a good human for him. This heartwarming book also includes information on how to adopt a homeless animal.
Officer Buckle and Gloria (Peggy Rathmann)
The children of Napville always fall asleep when Officer Buckle visits to deliver his safety speeches. One day, Officer Buckle brings the new police dog, Gloria, with him and the kids are suddenly hooked. I was smiling the whole time I read this one! All of the characters are silly and the story is truly heartwarming.
Oh No, George! (Chris Haughton)
George's owner, Harry, told him to be good while he was gone, but George has trouble resisting cake, cats, and dirt. What will George do? I love George's long nose and shifty eyes. The surprise ending will have kids laughing and shouting "Oh no, George!"
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! (Mo Willems)
Willems' Pigeon books are some of my favorite ever. The over-dramatic pigeon is always dying to have something, in this case a puppy. Soon he learns that a puppy may not be what he wants best and he moves on to his next animal obsession.
My Dog Spot (Jack E. & Norma R. Levin)
This simple book describes a cute Dalmatian named Spot from his owner's perspective. We learn about Spot's appearance, habits, and the different things he likes to do. This book is great for young children and discussing how to care for dogs.
Dog Breath (Dav Pilkey)
The Tosis family's dog, Hally Tosis, has unfortunately awful breath. The kids try to get rid of Hally's bad breath in a number of comedic ways, but it is no use. Fortunately, Hally's smell proves to be an asset when it knocks out a pair of burglars. Hally proves her worth to her family and the community by becoming a crime-fighting dog.
We Love You, Rosie! (Cynthia Rylant)
This brightly illustrated book follows a set of siblings and their beloved dog, Rosie. Rosie is a very busy dog. We get to see the different things Rosie does and how the kids interact with her. This book also introduces opposites like lost/found, good/bad, and up/down.
Once I Ate a Pie (Patricia MacLachlan and Emily M. Charest)
Each page of this book focuses on a different dog. These 13 dogs of different breeds "tell all" through "I am" style poems. I love that each of these dogs has a unique personality, just as dogs do in real life. The realistic paintings are another great touch!
Dog Days of School (Kelly DiPucchio)
Charlie thinks that his dog, Norman, has it easy. All Norman does is play, sleep, and eat! Charlie makes a wish to trade places with his dog, but things aren't as easy as he thought. While Norman goes to school, Charlie finds himself struggling with a dog's daily activities. This silly book will help kids build empathy for their pets.
Books About Cats & Kittens
I Must Have Bobo! (Eileen Rosenthal)
Willy wakes up to find his stuffed monkey, Bobo, is missing. After searching, he finds that his cat, Earl, has taken him. But everytime that Willy gets some quality time with Bobo, he turns up missing again. Did pirates steal him or was it just Earl? I love the simplistic illustrations with Earl's head peeking around the corner. Ask the kids if they see Earl and what they think he is up to.
Stretchy McHandsome by Judy Schachner
Have you ever seen a cuter name/title? This is the story of a unique, stretchy cat who goes on an adventure. He leaves his cat colony and finds McBright, a quirky girl who looks just like him. In the end, all of his eight other brothers and sisters move in and surprise, surprise, McBright happens to have eight brothers and sisters too! I really enjoyed this rhyming text and the unique character designs.
I Love Cats! (Sue Stainton)
In this silly book of opposites, a girl walks around town and names all the different types of cats she loves. Each cat is a unique character (I particularly love the "fat cat"). When she comes home from her walk, her parents surprise her with a cat of her own!
Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He's the Favorite (Stacy McAnulty)
I wasn't sure which category to put this under, as there are technically five pets, consisting of a cat, fish, bird, dog, and lizard. But the star of the story is the cat, Mr. Fuzzbuster, who is so sure that he is the favorite that he asks Lily to prove it. Things don't quite turn out as he expects, but it is still a happy ending.
Goyangi Means Cat (Christine McDonnell)
A little girl named Soo Min is adopted from Korea. Her new family knows little Korean, so she teaches them some new words. Her favorite part about her new home is the Goyangi - the cat. When Soo Min misses Korea, the cat comforts her. One day, the cat goes missing and the family is heartbroken. Soo Min sleeps to deal with her grief, until one day when she is woken up by the sound of the cat purring. I cannot say enough good things about this book. It shows how much of a comfort an animal can be when one is going through a difficult situation like Soo Min. It also gives readers an opportunity to learn a little Korean!
How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats? (Jane Yolen & Mark Teague)
Like other books in this series, we are presented with a number of problematic scenarios about how a not-so-nice dinosaur might treat their cat, only to learn that they do the opposite. This simple book gives good examples of do's and don'ts for caring for a cat. Their is also a dog version.
Is That My Cat? (Jonathan Allen)
If you are familiar with the That's Not My Touchy-Feely Books by Usborne, this book reads similarly but with a surprise at the end. A boy cannot recognize his cat, who was was lean and quick. In the end, he learns that his cat was actually pregnant, so now he has a litter of kittens to love and care for!
Max the Brave (Ed Vere)
Max is a very brave kitten. He's the type of kitten that chases mice, if only he knew what mice looked like. Max sets out to find a mouse, but when he finally does, the mouse plays a trick on him. Don't worry, Max gets the last laugh.
Books About Fish, Reptiles, & Critters
Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet (Kelly DiPucchio)
Gilbert the goldfish desperately wants a pet. He spends all his days imagining the perfect pet and how much fun it will be. When a pet finally comes along, he realizes it may not be so great. After a series of disappointing pets, Gilbert is ready to give up on his dream. All of the sudden, a new pet arrives and this one seems to be the perfect fit.
Not Norman: A Goldfish Story (Kelly Bennett)
A boy is not so jazzed about his new pet, a goldfish named Norman. Fish can't cuddle or play like other pets, so the boy vows to return him to the pet store or get someone else to take him off his hands. After spending some time with Norman, the boy realizes that he is actually a very special pet and decides to keep him.
Memoirs of a Goldfish (Devin Scillian)
This funny tale is told as a set of diary entries from the perspective of a goldfish. Things start out great in the fish's new bowl, but as days go on, his owner keeps adding more and more decorations and tank mates. The fish becomes sick of the crowding, until he is put in an isolation tank and realizes he misses his friends. In the end, they are all put in a larger proper tank. This book is perfect for a child who is about to take care of fish for the first time. It opens up the conversation about fish needing plenty of space to swim.
A Fish Out Of Water (Helen Palmer)
In this Dr. Seuss-style book, a boy is anxious to get home and care for his new pet fish, Otto. Mr. Carp, the pet store owner, warns him to only feed him a little, but he goes overboard. Soon, he finds Otto growing larger and larger, so he keeps switching him over to bigger containers. But Otto just won't stop growing. Will Mr. Carp be able to save the day?
I Wanna Iguana (Karen Kaufman Orloff)
This book is a funny back-and-forth between a son and his mother. The son really wants to adopt an iguana, but his mother has some valid concerns. It's a lighthearted way to explore the decision-making process that one should go through before choosing a pet.
Ferocious Fluffity (Erica S. Perl)
Mr. Drake's class gets a new class pet: a fluffy little hamster! At first, the kids think she will be harmless, but they quickly learn that she is ferocious. After being chased around the school by Fluffity, the kids find that she will behave better if she can burn energy by running in wheel. This book teaches an important lesson about knowing an animal's disposition before playing with them. It also has a funny surprise ending!
Books About Strange & Exotic Pets
This Moose Belongs to Me (Oliver Jeffers)
Wilfred loves his moose, though he is better at following some rules than others. One day, Wilfred discovers that his Moose may have more than one owner. I loved all of Wilfred's rules and how silly the moose looks with his stick legs! This one is funny throughout and the ending is perfection!
The Teacher's Pet (Anica Mrose Rissi)
Mr. Stricter is excited for a class pet! He decides to keep one of the tadpoles from science class, but it looks like he chose the wrong one. His tadpole grows into a hippo who causes all sorts of trouble! Will his students be able to convince him that the hippo has to go? Will he be able to find a replacement pet that he loves just as much?
Granny Gomez & Jigsaw (Deborah Underwood)
Granny Gomez is lonely, so she gets a pet pig named Jigsaw to keep her company. Pigs can be a bit wild in the house though, so Granny works hard to make Jigsaw his own deluxe barn. Soon after Jigsaw is comfy in his new home, Granny realizes that she misses his company and goes over to visit.
A Dog With Nice Ears (Lauren Child)
Charlie's little sister, Lola, wants a dog more than anything, but mom and dad say "Absolutely no dogs!" A rabbit is suggested as an alternative, but Lola isn't having it. The more Charlie and friends discuss the dog with Lola, the more she seems to actually want a rabbit. Lola goes off to fetch her dog, but what will she come back with?
One Word From Sophia (Jim Averbeck)
Sophia really wants a pet giraffe, but first she must convince her family. I have to admit that the page pictured above kind of grossed me out, but you can't deny that Sophia is an excellent salesman. This is an amusing book for older kids.
A Pet for Petunia (Paul Schmid)
Petunia wants a pet skunk! She thinks skunks are cute and she just knows she can take care of it. One day, Petunia has an encounter with a real skunk and she learns that they stink, but this does not deter Petunia from wanting one anyway.
Pet Books Which Deal With Grief
Dog Heaven & Cat Heaven (Cynthia Rylant)
If a child you love loses a pet, consider one of these two beautifully illustrated books. They propose the idea of a heaven especially for cats or dogs where they can roam around and do all the things they love with all the other cats/dogs. This one definitely has a religious theme, but if you are good with that your child will surely find comfort in the thought that their pet is in such a wonderful place.
The Goodbye Book (Todd Parr)
This book isn't necessarily about fish, but the main character is a fish. The book is about dealing with death and loss, the range of emotions one might feel and ways to cope. The fish has lost his bowlmate, so this may be a good one to read if you have a fish that dies. It is a very touching and honest read that honestly brought tears to my eyes.
Big Cat, Little Cat (Elisha Cooper)
A big cat is alone until a little cat comes. The big cat cares for the little cat and soon it grows big too. They are the best of friends, but the older cat "goes away" one day. Everyone is sad, until another little cat comes by. This touching book with simple text and illustrations is a great conversation starter when dealing with death and grief.
Biscuit Series (Alyssa Satin Capucilli)
Biscuit is the beloved puppy star of Capucilli's huge series of storybooks and leveled readers. He only says "Woof, woof!" but he is full of personality. You can find a biscuit book for practically any occasion.
Clifford the Big Red Dog (Norman Bridwell)
Before Clifford got his big break on cable television, he and his owner Emily Elizabeth shared many adventures in their book series. Clifford is a good natured dog, but his enormous size can get him into trouble every now and then. Luckily, Emily Elizabeth is there to guide him with patience and unconditional love.
Harry the Dog Series (Gene Zion)
The Harry the Dog series consists of just four books and storybook treasury, as Zion passed away years ago. The series stems from the first book, Harry the Dirty Dog, which is highly regarded classic. Harry's adventures are charming and full of humor.
Mittens Readers (Lola M. Schaefer)
Schaefer's Mittens books is a series of leveled readers suitable for guided reading or children who are just beginning to read independently. Each book details a new adventure of Mittens the cat and his owner, Nick.