Choosing A Pet For Your Family

Many of us have fond memories of childhood pets that we would like to give our own children. Pets can help us teach our children about friendship, responsibility, commitment, loyalty and empathy. But how do you know when your family is ready for a pet, and how do you choose the right one?

Is My Child Ready For A Pet?

Before you think about getting a family pet, you should consider whether your youngest child is old enough for your family to adopt another furry member. While children interact with animals out of love and curiosity, this can result in unintentional cruelty such as tail pulling and inappropriate carrying techniques.

If you are not sure, introduce your child to a friend's well-behaved pet and see how your child interacts. Your child should be old enough to be able to understand the world through a pet's eyes, with a little help, of course, so that she can refrain from pulling on tails or approaching a pet when they are eating. Your child should also be able to heed the warning signs of when a pet wants to be left alone, so that his chances of over-stimulating a pet and being scratched or bitten are low.

Since a family pet is a family responsibility, think about how your child may be able to help in care for the pet. Is he she enough to help brush or feed the pet or clean it's container?


Choosing The Right Pet

When many people think of a family pet, a cat or a dog is the first thing that comes to mind. While these types of animals can be very rewarding, they are also on the more expensive and care and maintenance intense side of the pet spectrum. A smaller animal like a fish or guinea pig can be just as rewarding to your family if that's what your family's lifestyle would be better compatible with.

Here are some things to consider when deciding on a type of pet, or even whether you should get a pet at all:

  • How much time does you family have to take care of a pet?
  • How much room in the family budget is there for a pet?
  • How much room do you have for a pet?
  • What's your family's lifestyle? Are you home a lot to give your pet attention? Are you and your children active? Does your family like the outdoors or do you prefer to stay inside?
  • Does anyone in your family have allergies?
  • Are your children mature enough to adapt to a pet and help with some of its care?

Answers to questions like these will determine if your family should get a pet, and if so, what type of pet to get.

Usually, larger animals like dogs and cats require more room in the budget and in the house, and they require more time for maintenance and attention. These types of animals generally also have longer life spans than smaller animals. They also require more training, stimulation and exercise, and they can be interacted with in more contexts than smaller animals. There are many breeds of dogs and cats, and some of them have better dispositions around children than others. There are also differences in the dispositions of older and younger animals.

Fish, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, etc. generally require less room and less stimulation, and they can be less expensive. However, they do require time for care and they do need to be factored into the family budget.

No matter what type of pet you decide on, it should be a pet the whole family can be involved with. It is not just a pet for the kids, it will be a member of the family and should be cared for and treated as one.