ARE THE KIDS READY FOR A PET?

ARE THE KIDS READY FOR A PET?

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Most children love animals. However, getting them one of their own can raise a surprising amount of controversy. (The following table represents opposing opinions, not necessarily straight facts.)

THE PROS OF PET OWNERSHIP

THE CONS OF PET OWNERSHIP

Teaches responsibility

Kids have all the fun, parents do all the work

Gives children a living creature to feel close to and trade unconditional love with

Young children mistreat animals and/or lose interest once the novelty wears off

Pet owners are physically and mentally healthier

Animals are expensive to keep and destructive of property; they may also injure children

So who’s right? Better, what’s right—for your family?

WHAT KIND OF PET?

Cute sweet little child, preschool boy, playing with little chicks at home, baby chicks in child hands
If the new pet will belong to the whole family, the whole family should share responsibility for feeding it and cleaning up after it.

Getting an “exotic” or “fad” animal is nearly always a bad idea. Horses and chickens don’t fit well into apartment complexes. Naturally wild species become restless and unpredictable when kept in suburban homes—not to mention how much space that cute little baby alligator will take up in a couple of years. And animals bought just because “everybody’s getting one” are more likely to be treated as toys rather than as living creatures with needs and sensitivities.

Even many traditional pets may not belong in your home or family. If you live in an apartment, remember that tiny puppy will likely get as big as its Great Dane mother. If you relocate frequently, consider that some species (and breeds) cope badly with constant transition. And if your children are too young to handle small things gently, a full-grown cat might cope better than a fragile kitten.

WHAT CAN REASONABLY BE EXPECTED OF HUMAN FAMILY MEMBERS?

If the new pet will belong to the whole family, the whole family should share responsibility for feeding it and cleaning up after it. Even preschoolers can pour out a dish of dry cat food. Hold a family meeting, in advance of bringing the animal home, to assign specific duties—with accountability for sticking to them for the long term.

Besides your children’s ages and maturity levels, consider:

  • Their records of responsibly handling schoolwork and chores
  • Their ability to learn new skills and cope with the unexpected
  • Their level of respect for living things
beautiful dog in the park

DOES EVERYONE UNDERSTAND WHAT WILL BE INVOLVED?

Even tween-age kids can let the anticipated joys of owning a dog, rabbit, or pet donkey get in the way of appreciating the expense and responsibility involved. You don’t want to be the parent who says “yes, providing you take care of it” and then ends up doing all the work because it’s “easier” than always reminding the kids.

 

Guinea pig

It’ll be easier to avoid that trap if everyone, including you, is clear in advance on what will be required. Even if you owned three beagles yourself as a child, veterinary knowledge and zoning laws change, and you can’t always assume you know how it’s done. Do careful advance research as a family before making the final decision.

Then you’ll be free to enjoy, as a family, all the advantages of sharing your home with a companion animal!