It’s not uncommon to see a puppy under the tree for Christmas, a family picking out a kitten at the animal shelter, or a hamster surprise complete with an enclosure of tubes and exercise wheels. Children seem to be drawn to animals, many of their toys and cartoons are portrayed as animals from a young age. Children are curious in nature, as are animals, and they share that innate curiosity as an educational tool - they learn from new experiences.
“I want a puppy,” or “I want a kitty,” is not an uncommon request from many kiddos, so the idea of getting a family pet is not out of the realm of possibility. Before running out and getting a pony, though, there are certain things you should consider. Getting a pet is not a small decision.
Consider Your Child
Of course any child loves the idea of having a puppy or a kitten around to take care of, but it’s your job to decide if that’s really the best decision for them. Even something as small as a fish might not be the best decision for every child. Before considering a pet for your home, consider if your child is ready for it. Make sure your child doesn’t have any allergies before bringing a pet into the home, introduce your child to animals before purchasing one to ensure they can be comfortable with a pet, and be prepared for the emotional toll and animal’s death can take on your little one.
Consider Your Home
A puppy may need to be potty trained, a cat may use your furniture for scratching, your dog may have an issue with chewing, or a ferret may smell. Your backyard may have some holes dug into it, your bathroom may need room for a litter box, and the other members of your household will need to be considered as well. Any animal, big and small, will have an effect on how your household runs. In a home with children that thrives on routine, an animal will put a wrench in that routine until everyone is settled. Having an animal is extremely rewarding, but they are a lot of work and there’s a learning curve involved with each experience.
Having realistic expectations about your pet is extremely important as well. Even with a lot of space, a horse is a serious commitment to your lifestyle. A pony involves many similar amenities that a horse needs, so it’s important to do your research and be realistic about your home life and how your animal will mesh with your lifestyle.
Let’s be honest, the animal you get for your child, whether they are a toddler or a teenager, will most likely be your responsibility. Before deciding to adopt a pet for your child, consider how much more work you’re willing to do. Cleaning up after it, spending time with it, buying food for it, purchasing toys, taking it for walks, feeding it, etc., are all aspects of owning a pet that takes time and money from whoever is taking care of it. This, of course, will probably be you. As many times as your child says they will take your new dog for a walk every night or clean it’s litter box every day, we all know how that goes after the novelty wears off. Animals are great for families, but if the added responsibility might be too much for you, you might need to consider waiting on a family pet.
Consider the Animal
Animals require a lot of attention, space, money, and/or time from you and your family. Consider the needs of the animal before taking the leap to buying your children an animal companion. An animal is a commitment that has to last forever. Through illness, through old age, through boredom, through moving, this animal is not a member of your family – through thick and thin. One mistake that many families make is that you can simply re-home an animal or take it to the Humane Society. If you can’t take care of this animal forever, you should not adopt it. It’s simply not fair to the animal if you aren’t in this for the long haul. Your animal needs a stable home, food, water, shelter, and attention. If this is unrealistic, you might consider taking your kiddo to see animals in another fashion instead of adopting.
Ultimately, animals are amazing additions to many families. There are so many different types of animals to help fulfil your need for a family pet without upsetting a child’s allergy, that won’t destroy your house, leave you without any free time, or jeopardize the animal’s happiness. Before agreeing to get your child an animal, decide what animal is right for you or if an animal is right for you at all. With so many other options for your children to be hands on with animals, your kiddo won’t miss out on animal interactions completely. Kitties are fun to cuddle with, dogs are fun to play with, and fish are fun to watch, but at least you don’t have to worry about the animals at the zoo eating your couch.
Author bio: Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys volunteering with a variety of organizations, reading with a glass of wine, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow her on Twitter!