Should your family buy a pet?
Have your kids been begging and begging you to buy a pet, or better yet, their first pet? I know my sister and I did that for some years. My parents had found excuses before—allergies, responsibilities, etc. Finally, we were old enough to at the very least feed animals and take some sort of responsibility.
My first pet was sort of forced on my mother. At a carnival, I actually won a fish. Unfortunately, the fish was a feeder fish, so it only lived for a few days before I became ill and passed away. But since we already had purchased the aquarium and fish food, it seemed fitting to actually buy more fish.
Fish are relatively low maintenance, but don’t be fooled—when you do have to wash out the aquarium, it gets messy and can be a major pain. In fact, some animals such as hamsters and guinea pigs are much easier to take care of. They require cleaning out parts of the cage daily, periodic full cleanings and feeding. They can also be held, which is a plus.
My family eased into a hamster next. I remember begging and pleading after a Memorial Day parade long ago. After a year or so, the hamster had developed a growth and also passed away.
Then, we bought a guinea pig. Not long after, we added another guinea pig to the family. She was up for adoption after having been abandoned.
When I was in sixth grade, we decided it was time to finally get a dog. My sister and I had waited for this moment forever. My mom did all her research on hypoallergenic breeds. We ended up getting a bichon frise. Dogs must be let out and walked multiple times a day. They also require feeding. Dogs need a lot of attention, and are definitely a lot of responsibility. However, they are also very sweet and loyal. They are a lot of fun to have around.
We ended up adopting a dog that had been abandoned after our first dog passed away. The dog we adopted has a lot of fears and a lot of issues. He is very sweet, but is scared of people. It has taken a significant amount of work to train him, and it’s still difficult to have people over. It’s become a lot more manageable now that we have had him for a while and can anticipate his habits, though. You grow to love your animals, and the work seems lesser. I highly suggest adopting despite the issues–you can save an animal’s life that way.
Most recently, a tiny kitten came to our doorstep and entered our house while it was snowing. The cat was cold and wet, so we brought him in. Cats are actually quite simple to take care of. Of course they need attention, and I would not leave a cat for too long, but cats use a litter box. They can go to the bathroom any time they need during the day. Other than that, there is obviously feeding.
Not only are they a time commitment, but animals, like anything else, are an additional expense. Insurance, veterinary costs (when your animals gets sick, hurt or needs vaccines), food, and other needs for each animal should be taken into account.
When deciding what kind of pet is best for your family, ask yourself the following:
How many hours a day can someone be home?
How much of a commitment are you willing to give? Are you willing to give up vacations, for example, if you have to housebreak a dog?
How much do you want in return from the animal? Do you want a companion? Or just a pet to hold once in a while?
How much am I willing to pay for someone to watch my animal while you are away on vacation? Are you willing to leave a pet with someone?
Does anyone in your family have any allergies?
How much space do you have in your home?
How much can you feasibly spend on vet fees, grooming fees, food, insurance, litter or other miscellaneous potential needs for an animal?
This is definitely a discussion to have with your family. Before bringing an animal into your home, I suggest having a very serious conversation with your children to ensure that they will be helping to take responsibility and agree to all the conditions you lay down. But having a pet is definitely a way to teach your kids compassion and responsibility. I know I might not be the person I am if I hadn’t been brought up taking care of animals.