Owning a pet has become a staple of most households. After all, didn’t watching Lassie when you were a kid cause you to dream ceaselessly for a fearless Collie dog of your very own, someone to rescue you from the well when you tumbled down it headlong? Or did you maybe beg for a pony after losing yourself in the pages of Black Beauty or My Friend Flicka? Did Free Willie make you kick and scream until your parents brought you home an Orca for you to love and cherish? (Maybe not that last one, though it would have made you the coolest kid on the block.) If those memories are coming back to you now because your own kids are clamoring for a pet, you should begin weighing the pros and cons of pet ownership before you invest in something tiny (like a hamster), or something big and exotic (like a twenty foot boa constrictor … first syllable “constrict”).
The most important benefit to keep in mind when considering what kind of a pet to invite into your domicile is that learning to care for another living creature can instill a great amount of empathy in your children. They learn that their pets are as dependent on them as they are on you. They must also learn to be responsible, which they will have to become as they care for their pet by feeding it, maintaining an exercise regime if that is necessary (which for dogs especially it will be), playing with it, and keeping both pet and pet habitat clean. Studies have shown that children are taught to have more respect and compassion for living things if they own a pet during their formative years.
What kind of pet are you considering? Remember that, whatever you select, you must stand your ground and see that your children are undertaking the responsibility of caring for it and continue to do so once the thrill has worn off and the reality of the demands of caring for another living creature sets in. Would your child do better with a smaller pet, like a rat or a gerbil or a hamster? While these animals are usually less dangerous, they do require more service, particularly when it comes to cage cleaning. This chore must be performed on a regular basis, or you could be left with a potentially smelly problem on your hands.
Keep in mind that some smaller animals may be inappropriate for children, especially depending on their ages. Younger children may not understand that the rabbit you brought home isn’t the Easter Bunny. Rabbits in particular do not like to be picked up and held, which may be difficult for your inquisitive child to resist.
If you are considering a more traditional pet, such as a cat or a dog, you must keep in mind the size of your home and the facilities you may or may not have for grooming or walking your pet. Is your furniture a priority? How do you feel about having your cat declawed? Some dogs are more prone to barking than others, and if your neighbors are particularly sensitive, you may want to look ingot the purchase of dog barks collars or an electric bark collar.
Pet ownership will ultimately help your child to become a better person … with some guidance from you.