When my kids were toddlers, we found a stray kitten outside. It was a teeny tiny, pitiful little thing, and I had to bottle feed him for a few days before he was able to eat softened food. The poor kitty was so grateful to have been taken in off of the streets, that he snuggled on my chest and purred and purred. In my mind, he was going to be our new pet! Unfortunately, he did not get along with my two-year-old at all. Within a few weeks, the kitten was terrified of the toddler, and the toddler looked like a scratching post! I knew a woman who had a kitten about the same age as ours, and she was happy to give her lonely kitty a brother. It worked out well for the cat, and we learned something about kids and pets… namely, a tiny kitten and a rambunctious two-year-old might not make the best of friends!
Since then, my daughter has calmed down and we’ve cautiously dipped our toes back into the pool of pet ownership. We started with a betta fish, and now we have a tankful of tetra. We also have a much-loved hamster named Hammie. Maybe one day soon we’ll venture into the territory of having a cat or a dog… we’ll see! From all of my research (we’re not jumping in blindly this time!), I can see that there are quite a few considerations to keep in mind when picking out a pet for the kids.
- Size Matters
You may be thinking that because your children are little, a diminutive pet would be ideal. Think again. Smaller animals are more fragile than their full-size counterparts, and they might also be more likely to bite or scratch your child. Young animals require more hands-on care, and puppies in particular take up a lot of time. If your kids are small, consider getting an adult animal, who is likely to be more calm and predictable than a puppy or kitten.
- An Investment of Time
Whether you get a full-grown pet or a baby, you will need to invest some time in teaching your new family member the ropes of living in your household. And if your kids are young or have never had a pet before, you will need to watch them like a hawk. Discourage grabby behavior from the beginning, and teach the kids how to treat your new pet. Also, be prepared to take on the bulk of pet care. Despite promises from your children that they will feed, walk, and otherwise care for their new dog or cat, chances are that you will need to at least monitor the pet’s feeding, grooming, and cleaning-up-after.
- Where to Get Your Pet
We’ve all had the experience of being drawn to the fluffy puppies and kittens in the pet shop window, but caveat emptor: the animals sold in pet stores often come from puppy or kitty mills, where the animals tend to be neglected, bred too often, and sickly. Your new family member may end up having a genetic disease, and even if she doesn’t, you will be contributing to unethical and irresponsible breeding. Consider going to a shelter or humane society to pick out your perfect pet. The employees and volunteers will have the inside scoop on which animals seem well-socialized and which may have trouble acclimating to a home with children. Another good, albeit more expensive, option is to find a professional breeder. Ask your veterinarian or your local kennel club for a referral. Either way, plan to have your new pet neutered, as this is a part of responsible pet ownership and reduces pet overpopulation.
Your new pet can bring you and your children years of joy and love. Before you add a pet to your family, however, be sure to carefully consider whether you have the time and resources to properly care for an animal, and make sure your kids are well-prepared and aware of how to treat their new dog or cat.
Do you have any tips or tricks for picking out the perfect pet?