What Pet Is Right for Your Family?

October 01, 2017

kids-and-dogGrowing up, I asked my mother for a pet about every week. She was a nurse and we had four kids in the family. Her answer to me was this: “Sorry honey, no. I have four pets already.”

I kept asking and pestering. Can we have a dog? No. Can we have a hamster? No. Can we have a cat?  Finally, and I am not sure why, mom said Yes! My prayers were finally answered.

As an adult and in charge – wink! – my sons have had tons of pets, including cats, dogs and horses. They’ve had fun playing with them, taking care of them, watching me take care of them (that happens a lot!), and taking comfort from an animal who enjoys being petted and receiving treats.

Pets represent a commitment and families have to think carefully about what pet is right for your situation. Here are some things to consider and are by no means concrete guidelines. Always do what’s right for you!

1) Shelter dog. This can be an amazing choice! Not only does your family get a pet, you can explain to your child that you are saving the life of a dog who needs a forever home. Since this is a long-term commitment, choose carefully. You and your child should interact with the dogs you are considering. Some shelters have play yards where you can play with the dogs you are considering. Ask questions about the dog. Watch and see if the dog enjoys your child or is scared. One last thing – even though puppies are cute, that older, friendly dog may be a better fit especially if it is already house trained!

2) Purebred dog. The American Kennel Club has a wealth of information on the best breeds for families. They take into consideration the dog’s personality, size and potential health issues. There are some dogs breeds that love kids and are very patient. Others that are protective of their families and fit right in. Still other breeds do best in homes without kids. Be careful when purchasing a purebred dog. Some breeds have health issues like hip dysplasia or skin issues that are costly to treat. Reputable breeders will allow you to come to them so meet the parent dogs and see where the puppies are raised. Many often health guarantees. Be suspicious of puppy mills that raise dogs in horrible conditions and do not let you come to them!

3) Cat or kitten. Felines are fantastic pets! Each has a very distinct personality and while known for so-cute-3-cute-kittens-9989494-1098-960being aloof, cats are very affectionate. It just has to be on their terms. Some even enjoy fetching small balls or toys. An advantage of cats is that once they are litter boxed trained, they are easy to care for – you don’t have to take them outside and walk them. You do have to keep the litter box cleaned. It’s also wise to give them a scratching post so they don’t scratch furniture.

Master_Guinea_Pigs_24) Hamster or guinea pig. If your family has a smaller home or does not want a high maintenance pet, a hamster or guinea pig is a great pet. They are super sweet pets who are entertaining and easy to care for. They do require a secure pen or cage that is kept clean and has an exercise wheel, toys, fresh water and food. These little fellows enjoy being held – gently – so it’s best to supervise small kids with pets like these.

take-care-of-a-goldfish5) Fish. The ultimate in low-impact pets! If you are not keen on taking a major responsibility, start with a goldfish. As long as you keep their bowl clean and the fish is fed, they are both enjoyable and easy to care for. You and your child can start small – a bowl, a little castle and rocks – and if you like, get an aquarium and go all out! Fish can be lots of fun!

Regardless of where you go with pets, remember that they are living creatures and must be treated with loving kindness and consistent care. Before you choose, think hard about the time and expense each pet will require to feed, groom, exercise, and love. A forever home is just that – forever!