When you were a kid, did you long to run over hill and dale alongside Lassie? Perhaps you dreamed of pounding along the ocean, running down the beach with your very own Black Stallion. And maybe after much begging and negotiation, your parents awarded you with your very own first pet, which might have been a hamster or, even better, a puppy of your very own! Now that you’re an adult with your own children, you may find that they’re taking after you by asking for their very own first pet. But are your kids ready for that level of responsibility?
Think back to your childhood. One of the most important aspects of pet ownership is that it teaches children how to empathize. They begin to realize that, as they depend on you for love and support, their new pet depends on them. You will teach them the value of responsibility as they learn how to care for the pet, how and when to feed it, the importance of playing with it, and keeping it (and its habitat) clean. Children who are pet owners in their youth grow up to be more respectful and demonstrate more compassion as adults.
What kind of pet is the best fit for your child? When deciding if you should allow them to have one at all, you must be sure that the responsibility of taking care of the pet after the thrill has worn off doesn’t fall to you alone. Do you want to invest in a “starter pet,” something small like a guinea pig or rat? A tiny pet is more easily contained, but your child does have the responsibility of keeping the cage clean, which can be problematic in and of itself … and stinky to boot.
Does your child want something furry and loveable, like a dog or cat? Dogs must be walked, and the cat box must be kept clean. You as the parent would also need to do some research to discover any useful feeding hints, and if you’re a cat owner, any cat food tips. But not all furry creatures want to be held. Rabbits in particular don’t like to be picked up and stroked. And for fish and birds, this is also a less-possible practice. snakes and tarantulas aren’t pets that you can pick up and hold either.
What is your house like? For more traditional pets (like cats and dogs), you must consider the size and location of your domicile before signing the adoption papers. Cats are known to shed and claw the furniture, and every animal has an accident from time to time. Dogs will need to be walked and require a place to exercise. Do you have a backyard or a nearby park? Remember also that some dogs are barkers, and that your neighbors may not appreciate the noisy pet you bring home.
Becoming a pet owner can be a wonderful step on the road toward your child’s development, especially emotionally. But you must be sure that everyone in your household – including you – is ready for the new responsibility.