Have your children started to beg you for a pet of their very own? Pets provide comfort, friendship, unconditional love, and can help teach children about responsibility and the humane treatment of all living creatures. If your family is planning to adopt or purchase a pet there are a few things to keep in mind before getting the perfect four-legged furry companion that will become a member of your family.
First things first–sit down with your family to find out if they are ready to include a pet in their lives. Raising a pet requires responsibilities for each family member, and children need to be aware that will help care for the pet since it will become an integral part of their family.
Many families consider buying a pet from a pet shop or a neighborhood friend, but Renee Collins, director of adoptions and resident care at Bideawee, a local pet welfare organization, believes that the best option for first time pet owners would be to adopt from an animal shelter.
“Sometimes, a pet will find you. Providing a homeless pet with a home is always a rewarding experience. It’s always good to consider adopting a shelter pet as there are high numbers of pets in shelters waiting and hoping for loving homes,” says Collins.
Collins has had experiences with all different types of animals and explains that if your family is deciding on a cat or a dog, you need to carefully examine your lifestyle.
“If the family enjoys spending more time at home, a cat may be preferred as cats are often most affectionate in the areas in which they are most familiar. If a family engages in a lot of outdoor activities, a dog may be preferred, as it is recommended to give dogs plenty of exercise through walks, hikes, and runs.”
She suggests to house train all dogs, teach them basic commands like sit, wait, and down, and go outside for walks at least 2-3 times daily. For cats, she suggests that they be trained to learn how to use the litter box. All animals need to adapt to their new environments which may take a little time, so it is important to remind your kids to be patient.
Living in the city might make some families feel uneasy about adding a pet to their home, but there are plenty of additional pet options for families that live in small spaces. They can get smaller pets like gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs. These creatures make the perfect first pet for kids because they are small, cuddly, can be kept in a cage, and kids can easily take care of them. Caring for smaller pets is a great way for kids to learn how to be responsible before moving on to raising a larger animal like a cat or dog. However, kids should not be the sole caregiver to a new pet. Parents must work together with their children to share the responsibility in the care of the pet.
“Having a pet also provides kids with the experience of caring for a living creature and watching that animal respond with love and gratitude. Usually how kids treat pets is instrumental in the formation of their personalities as they grow into adults,” says Collins.
So what should you remember when you finally bring your new family member home?
“Be patient as your pets adjusts to their new family and environment and remember that your pet will learn from you, and they are eager to do so,” says Collins. “Once your family meets the pet that was meant to be, the family and the pet will cherish the time they have to love and to learn together.”