Many of my friends have prepared for parenthood by trying their hands at pet rearing. Those less confident have opted for the ‘easy to replace’ goldfish whilst others have opted for the more furry species.
So often a child is brought into the world and immediately exposed to a mixed breed named Rover whose sole purpose in life is to lick the little ones face during meal times. The metaphorical Rover is however, your pet and it won’t take long before your child wants a pet of their own.
Having a pet is usually a rite of childhood but a request for one usually inspires a sense of impending doom if you are a parent. Regardless of the pet you choose it’s going to be a lot of work. No matter how much your child insists they will do everything you know the bulk of the responsibility will sit squarely on your shoulders.
Pet ownership means vet bills, food, toys, grooming, cleanup – and who knows what else. It’s not something to take lightly.
But the right pet paired with your child can result in wonderful companionship. The love lavished on a living creature, and the responsibility of looking after a pet leads to lifelong lessons. Pets are a source of love and comfort. They can become an integral part of a family and love their owners unconditionally. The bond with a pet can provide immeasurable fulfilment for everyone in your family, not just your child.
So as a parent you need to ask yourself a number of key questions to decide whether your family is ready for a pet and what type of pet would be most suitable for your child and your family.
Key Question Number 1:
What are the expectations of all family members and how will the pet fit into the family members lifestyle?
Aspects to consider would need to focus on the amount of care the pet requires, the role each family member will play in the pet’s care, the medical care the pet may need, how big the pet will grow to be and how the pet will relate to other pets you may already have. A budgie is perhaps not the best idea with a couple of cats roaming the house – the carnage that could ensue is not a sight you would want to expose your child to. It is important that all family members, including your children, have realistic expectations of the care involved in looking after and nurturing a pet.
Key Question Number 2:
Is the pet potentially dangerous?
Some animals hold appeal for your child because they’ve seen them on the big screen or celebrities carry them around like an accessory. Although some of these animals may be cute to look at they can be dangerous as pets in terms of temperaments and possible diseases they may carry. In addition to this, wild animals belong in the wild and are not meant to be tamed and incorporated into urban households. Examples of such animals that may not be child-friendly include reptiles, rodents, amphibians, ferrets, baby poultry, monkeys, and other exotic animals. Reptiles transmit salmonella through their faeces. Pet reptiles are extremely risky for infants and elderly people who are likely to have difficulty fighting off a salmonella infection.
Dogs and cats can also spread infections from picking up ticks so it is imperative that you use effective preventative tick treatments and check your pets regularly for nasty intruders. Some dog breeds aren’t recommended for children due to their size (Doberman Pinschers, Dalmations and Great Danes) and others specifically being bred to be aggressive (such as some Pit Bulls or Rottweiler’s). Certain terriers and Chihuahuas are particularly feisty and known as being less tolerant of children.
Key Question Number 3:
What pets are recommended for young children?