Kids and pets are like peanut butter and jam – they just go together! Parents are often in two minds when it comes to giving into the endless requests (made by begging kids) about actually going out and adopting a pet. The most obvious reason why parents don’t want to bring pets into the home is that the novelty soon wears off and a once over-eager 5 year old will happily hand over the responsibility of caring for the -cute’ pet to mom or dad. However, experts agree that kids who are brought up with pets in the home have better confidence and are happier and if parents actively encourage them to care for the pet, they develop a firm bond with Fido (or the hamster or cat) and they learn responsibility.
The most common types of pets are dogs, cats, goldfish, birds and hamsters – adventurous parents may be open to adopting a bearded dragon or another type of exotic pet, however, parents are urged to find out if permits are needed for these exotic creatures and they should also bear in mind that these pets need extra special care and attention.
Dogs and Cats
Canines and felines are among the most popular choices for first time pet owners. Cats are probably the easiest of pets to care for. A cat can be kept in a small flat or townhouse and they do not require a lot of yard space. Siamese or other speciality breeds of cats are known for their haughty attitude and may not take kindly to toddlers running after them; therefore it is best to seek a non-breed tabby cat for a child, as these cats are far less sensitive and far less highly strung than the speciality breed varieties. Cats, however, are either very loveable or they are not and while kittens will spend many hours happily playing with a small child – as they grow older they prefer to spend their day sleeping and want to be left alone.
Dogs on the other hand are known as man’s best friend for a reason. A dog is a constant companion, who is loyal and thrives on human attention. As man’s best friend, the dog will play fetch, walk with their owner and become their shadow. The downside of a keeping a dog is that a large-sized breed, like a German Shepherd or Dalmatian, requires a good-sized yard. Those who live on smaller-sized properties or townhouse complexes may consider smaller breed dogs, like the toy or miniature varieties, such as the miniature pinscher, toy-pom or Maltese. Although the toy dogs are small in size, they tend to be relatively highly strung and can give a meddlesome toddler a nasty bite. It is best to look for a dog that is small in size, but not necessarily a pedigree dog – often the mixed-breed dogs make the best family pets.
Hamsters and Fish
Hamsters and fish are certainly among the easiest of pets to care for. Besides the initial cost outlay for the cage, cage accessories, fish tank, pump, etc., these pets are pretty cost-effective when compared to the costs of caring for a dog or cat. Fish however, will offer little appeal for a child who wants to hold or care for a pet, while a hamster on the other hand will offer hours of fun. Although hamsters are nocturnal and sleep much of the day away, kids will be fascinated by the behaviour of the furry rodent. These types of pets are the best choice for families who spend a lot of time away from the home and because they have their own specialized cage, parents will find that the hamsters can be handed over to a family friend or relative to care for, if the family goes away on holiday.
Things to considering before buying a pet
- Pets require lifelong care. They cannot be -traded in’ for cuter or younger models as they age. When the choice is made to adopt a pet, it is a commitment and kids must realise that pets come with responsibility;
- Costs – pet care, vet bills, food, etc, can end up becoming expensive. Dogs and cats will need to receive vaccinations and female pets must be sterilized. If a dog is your pet of choice, it may be a good idea to send the dog for dog training classes (especially larger-sized dogs)!
- Is your home big enough to house a dog, will any changes need to be made to the property to ensure the pet is secure?
- Pet-sitters will need to be found to care for the pets during the family’s holiday, or the pets can be booked into kennels and catteries. These are rather expensive and for a pet to be accommodated by a kennel or cattery, the owner will need to prove that all vaccinations are up to date.
- All pets (including hamsters and goldfish) require daily care and attention, this includes feeding and grooming. Dogs especially need to be given continual care and love and when parents decide to add a pet to their family; they will need to find the time to fit in pet care! Before opting to adopt a pet, make certain that you are able to provide the right care for the animal.
- Rather than buying a puppy from a breeder, visit your local SPCA or Pet Rescue Organisations. There are often many, friendly and healthy pets ready for adoption. When adopting from these organisations, the pet will be sterilized and vaccinations will be given. The cost of this is usually far less than a breeder will charge for the pet alone (excluding sterilization). Prospective pet owners will also be able to adopt cats and they may also find a pedigreed dog up for adoption.
All pets, whether you choose a dog, cat or hamster can bring a lonely child many hours of friendship and if parents teach their kids how to care for the animal, they will be rewarded with a child who will understand and appreciate that pets come with responsibility – and that responsibility may in turn benefit the child later in life.
– Kathy Baron