Pet Education

Is your child ready for a pet?

By June 28, 2021No Comments

Is there any site more endearing, more “aww”-inspiring, than seeing a small which with a baby animal?

But what makes a good choice for your child’s first pet?

First of all, never buy a pet on a whim. A pet is not a toy, to be played with for a few weeks then tossed aside or ignored because your child has gotten bored with it. That is why, idyllic television commercials to the contrary, it might not be a good idea to give a pet present at holiday time. Any animal is adorable as a baby, but what happens when it grows older? Are you willing to accept responsibility for the pet should an illness or accident occur?

Do some research on your prospective acquisition. It is better to find out beforehand if your child has allergies rather than bring in a pet and be forced to return it.

Another consideration: How hectic is your schedule? Although your child begs for a little friend, swearing on all that is holy to take care of it, you just know you’re the one who will end up as the major caretaker. Think: how happy will you be to have to walk Rover on those sub-zero winter nights? Do you have the time to give him the attention and affection he deserves? Pets are creatures of habit and need a dependable routine.

And don’t overlook the size of your living space: is it really large enough for that St. Bernard?

Then there are the costs of ownership that often get overlooked. You have daily feedings, leashes, collars, toys, accessories, and licenses. They will all require medical care from time to time. You should also have any pet neutered unless you are planning on breeding them. There are already more animals in shelters than homes for them.

Generally speaking, a dog might not be the best choice for a child under five years old. She can share in certain responsibilities (such as feeding and brushing), but should probably not walk the animal alone before the age of ten. You might also consider obedience training (for the dog, not your child. Then again . . .)

While a dog needs lots of outdoor exercise, a cuddly and affectionate cat could be content to sit in a sunny spot all day. If you are too busy or have too little space for a dog or cat, “pocket pets” can provide good company for children.

Think about a guinea pig, gerbil, hamster or rabbit. They can be lots of fun and are relatively inexpensive to care for.

Guinea pigs are gentle, love attention and make a wonderful first pet. They should be purchased before the age of three months old so they can get accustomed to people more easily. They eat food pellets as well as leafy green vegetables but need a fresh source of Vitamin C since they cannot manufacture it themselves.

Other good choices for first pets are gerbils and hamsters, which have friendly, intelligent, and curious natures. Mice and rats are also good alternatives. Hamsters are smart but can be a bit “nippy,” so they should only be handled with supervision. Kids – and adults as well – get a kick out of watching hamsters play in “habitats,” tubes connected to form a series of tunnels.

Rabbits are cuddly and affectionate as well. They can be kept in a hutch and taught to use a litter box. You should watch out for your wooden furniture and electrical wires, however, because they love to nibble. Another word of caution: rabbits should not be picked up suddenly because they may scratch if startled.

With any caged pets, it is important to provide a clean habitat.

Freshwater should be available at all times, with fresh food offered daily.

Birds and reptiles, although lovely to look at, are not an ideal match for a child. Birds can bite and reptiles require a lot or care and can carry Salmonella. Fish are also beautiful to watch but are hardly interactive enough for a child.

With all this to think about, you might have second thoughts about giving in to your youngster’s pleas to get that pet. But with proper consideration beforehand and supervision afterward, it’s well worth the effort when you see your child cuddled up with her furry little friend.