Things To Consider Before Getting Your Kids A Pet

Russian Blues (like this one) tend to be skittish at first, but very affectionate.  
Great for kids.

When I was a kid, we always wanted a pet. One week, it was a hamster. The next week, it was one of the kittens from down the street. The week after that, it was a snake. Then a ferret, then a dog...well, you get the idea. We ended up with a kitten, but soon found that taking care of her was a lot more work than we realized! Your kids might be begging you to get a pet too. Having animals in the house can be a lot of fun and a good way to teach your kids responsibility, but is having a pet something you can handle right now? If so, what would be the best animal to have? Before you fall in love with the rabbit in the pet store, here are some things you need to consider before getting your children a pet.

First of all, who is going to take care of it? Your kids may say that they will, but many kids sort of 'fall away' when they realize how much work it is. That was one of the biggest objections my parents had to getting us a pet; they weren't sure we'd be willing and able to care for it once the novelty wore off. A pet isn't something you can 'rent' for a while and then take back to the store when you're done with it; it takes time and effort to care for an animal. Do your children fully understand this? Is the regular care and feeding of a pet something they are able to handle? Also, who is going to buy the food? What about litter, cages, fish tank accessories, etc? Even if you get the cheap stuff, the cost still mounts up. Hopefully your kids' pet won't need a lot of veterinary care, but even healthy pets need checkups and, in the case of dogs and cats, vaccinations. 
What kind of 'maintenance' does it need? Some pets take more work to care for than others. For instance, it takes a lot of time and energy to house-train a puppy. Even if you get a dog that has already been 'house-broken', you're still probably going to have to take it for walks if you don't have a fenced-in yard for it to roam in. Also, dogs need baths. Fishbowls and hamster cages need to be cleaned out, dogs picked up after and litter boxes scooped. It's not exactly fun to clean up animal poop, but it needs to be done. Is this something you or your children will be willing and able to do? I'm saying 'you' because, face it, you might end up doing the lion's share of the work. Is this something you can handle? I'm just trying to be realistic here.

Is your house 'pet-friendly'? Even well-trained cats, dogs, rodents and birds can make a mess of things. There are ways to 'pet-proof' your house, but they don't always work and not everyone is willing or able to do it. You can get your dog chew toys, but they still might bite into things. Chewing on old shoes might not be a problem, but biting through your laptop cable (yes, this has happened) definitely is! Cats scratch and get into things they shouldn't. Even birds can knock things over if they get out of their cages. Do you have a lot of nice things that you don't want to be messed up? Do you and your kids want to take the time and effort to pet-proof your house?

I hope I've given you some things to think about if you are considering getting a pet for your kids. Keeping animals can be very fun and rewarding, but it does take work that not everyone wants to do. It can be a good way of teaching your kids to be responsible, so that's definitely a plus! Good luck!

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