Question: We recently bought a pet rabbit. I read that one is supposed to feed one’s animals before eating. Can I feed my children first?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachos 40a; Gittin 62a) writes that one must not eat before feeding one’s animals. Therefore, if one said a beracha hamotzi and realised that they had not fed their animal, it would not be considered a hefsek to ask another to do so before eating.
While Rambam (Avadim 9:8) writes that this halacha is midas chasidus, an act of piety (See Chayei Adam 5:11; Nishmas Adam 5:11), other poskim (Shevus Yaakov 3:13; Aruch Hashulchan OC 167:13, Biur Halacha 167:6) maintain that it is a mitzva derabanan while the Magen Avraham (271:12) writes that it is mideoraisa.
R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 2:52) writes that one must feed one’s young children before one’s animals. Once one’s children are old enough to take food themselves, however, they should feed the animals first (See Rivevos Ephraim 6:56:2; 92).
The Piskei Teshuvos (167:15) adds that only the animal’s owner is obligated to feed their animal first. Therefore, one should serve one’s children and guests first.
In conclusion, one should feed one’s animals before eating, but one may serve one’s children first. Older children who own pets should be encouraged to feed them before eating themselves.