If you haven’t heard it yet, the question will be coming from your children at any given time. When can we get a pet? Although we all love the idea of a playful pet, actually getting one for your family isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Pets are a tremendous amount of work and responsibility, not to mention a financial obligation. There are numerous considerations that need to be taken into consideration when determining what kind of pet is right for your family.
First and foremost, there should be an understanding that although children can help care for the animal, most of the responsibility still falls on the parents (time and energy to help train the animal, finances for vet care, food, etc.). There are several points to ponder in this regard. What is your family’s lifestyle? Do you travel a lot, or are you always on the go? What is your housing situation? Do you have a yard? If you don’t own your home, does your rental agreement allow pets? If so, what kind, and is there an additional fee? Has your family had any prior experience with pets, or do you have a family history of allergies or asthma? Finally, what kind of animal fits your family best? These are all legitimate questions you need to ask before you can consider specifically which pet is a perfect fit for your family.
Once these have been answered, the fun part can begin. Now you can pick your furry family friend. Keep safety at the forefront of your decision. You always want to match your pet to your children’s ages, maturity, and ability to handle responsibility. For example, if you have very young children, a smaller breed of dog would be a much better choice than a more aggressive or larger one. If you have children who are a little unsure about dogs, a cat or rabbit may be a better choice. Or, if you have family members with sensitivities to pet dander, you may want to consider something along the lines of a gecko, a bird, fish, or even a hamster or gerbil that would keep it’s dander confined to it’s cage. The same should go for families with hectic schedules that require a pet that can comfortably be kept in a cage or tank.
Remind your children that pets are living creatures needing proper care and attention. Teach them how to handle their pets and model appropriate behavior for them. Although some breeds are considered very gentle, all pets are animals and capable of biting or scratching if frightened or provoked. Children are full of energy and naturally curious, so they need reminders to be calm and gentle around their pets, particularly when they are being introduced to the home. Until your pet is well adjusted, allow your kids to pet them, but not pick them up. Teach them to approach an animal with an open hand and to allow the animal to smell them first. Talk to them about warning signals, such as ear position, vocalizations the animal may make, and signs the animal may want some time to itself. You may want to consider a “kid free” zone in the house where the animal can go to relax and have a break from active children and busy hands. It is suggested children and pets are always supervised until the animal and its behaviors are well known and predictable, and hence determined reliable if alone with the child.
Once you have decided what kind of pet to get and discussed how to be responsible pet owners, you’re ready to bring your newest addition home! Whether you rescue a puppy from the pound, get a kitten from a neighbor, or win a fish from the school carnival, your pet is bound to become a well loved member of the family quickly. Pets are an excellent way to teach responsibility, keep your kids moving and active, and provide unconditional love and companionship for the whole family!