A guide to your family’s first pet

-Jul 5, Rachel Richards, Living -

Have you caught yourself looking at photos of cute puppies and wishing that you had one? Or perhaps your children are pestering you to get a furry friend. We take a look at the pros and cons. 

To get a pet or not to get a pet: that is the question. You know what your child’s opinion is, and you might not be able to outlast his or her puppy-dog eyes for much longer.

But before you cave in, here’s what you need to consider.

It takes a village to raise a pet

Dogs, cats and other creatures require food, water, companionship, exercise and love on a daily basis. Thousands of pets get sent back to the shelter after owners realize how much TLC the pet really needs. Before impulse-buying a pet, put your family to work to divide and conquer the pet’s needs. It’s a great way to teach your kids about responsibility.

The pet you or child wants may or may not be the pet you can handle

Are you looking for an active companion or a low-energy cuddler? How much patience do you and your child have to train a pet?

Be realistic about your free time and your child’s ability to get chores done. (Do this before you pass a pet adoption drive and the cuteness short-circuits your brain.)

There’s a reason goldfish rank way up there on the list of first pets – they’re inexpensive and don’t require much care beyond feeding and an occasional bowl cleaning. If you’re looking for low-maintenance, an animal like a turtle or gerbil might be a good match (although potentially a tad wiffy).

Our larger furry friends tend to create a stronger bond but require a larger time investment, especially puppies and kittens. Dogs have to be walked – even in a snowstorm, even in the rain. Cats don’t need to be taken outside, but the stink of an full-to-the-brim litter box is no joke.

Adopting a pet shouldn’t be an impulse decision

It’s not every day you choose the next member of your family, so pick wisely and do your research.

Visit your local humane society and/or animal rescue organisation so you can buy yourself – and more importantly, your child – a trial period before committing.

These organizations have counsellors who can help you find a pet with the right temperament for your family and discuss costs of care. They often also allow you to return the animal if he/she is not the right fit.

Make sure your pet fits in your home

If you dont have a backyard or park near home, a dog may not be the best choice. Also, if you’re renting, make sure to check if your lease agreement allows for pets.

And lastly, dont fall in love with your furniture before falling in love with your pet.

If you really, really love that expensive couch, please know that it will be the first thing your dog or cat or tries to pee on, scratch and/or chew.

While these are all points to consider before you get a pet, once you have one, you can expect some pretty great benefits for your child.

There’s the obvious benefit of teaching your kids responsibility, but have you considered how having a pet can actually improve your child’s health?

Introducing a pet – and the allergens that come with it – early can decrease your child’s risk of developing a severe allergy.

Even better, having a pet to play with might lessen the time your child spends memorising a video game or staring at a tablet.

While there are a lot of pros and cons to weigh when it comes to getting a pet, it is definitely worth weighing them all up carefully.


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