Is Your Family Ready for a Pet?

At some point during the wondrous years of childhood, your daughter will ask you for a pet. A couple of years ago, my then 3 year old daughter began the weekly ritual of begging for a puppy. Every time we went for a walk and passed by a pouch, the pleading began, “Mommy! I want one! I want one – pleeeease!” She ended up settling for our two fish, Ernie and Bert. But now that she’s 5, the begging has commenced once more.

Most children ask for a pet at some point during their childhood. But buying a pet should be a family decision rather than an individual one. Bringing home a pet is analogous to adding another member to your family (some pets can live up to seventeen years), so it’s important to make a well-informed and thoughtful decision before bringing home that adorable puppy.

Is  She Ready?

  • No surprises, please. Some parents like the element of “surprise” when buying their daughter a pet. But surprising a child who isn’t ready to take on the responsibility a new pet brings can lead to a disaster for both of you.
  • Gentle care and responsibility. Owning a pet requires constant care, grooming, walking, poop scooping, and feeding. Make sure your daughter is ready to take on these tasks. Often, a week or so after purchasing a new pet, kids lose interest. It’s important to review the “expectations” ahead of time.
  • Observation. Notice how your daughter acts around other people’s animals. Is she too rough? Does she play with them? Is she scared or nervous? Her reaction can provide important clues as to how she will handle her own pet.
  • Try it out first. Let your daughter practice her pet skills by pet-sitting for other people’s animals. Or, visit your local animal shelter and ask the staff to show your daughter how to care for an animal (feed, groom, etc.). These are great ways for her to understand the full responsibility that accompanies having a pet.

Are You Ready?

  • Pet preferences. Decide what kind of pet you think is suitable for your family. Whether it’s a large dog or a small guinea pig, the pet you choose should fit with your lifestyle.
  • Money, money, money. How much “pet” can you afford? Once you have chosen the type of pet, it’s time to consider the additional costs of owning it. Pets come with a variety of “hidden costs” such as vet bills, food, licensing, grooming, toys, boarding, and medication if your pet gets sick. The additional costs can add up quickly. The bottom line? Pets are expensive.
  • Time and Convenience. Pets require a lot of time and care. Just like a member of your family, they need to be loved, bathed, fed, and played with. In addition,  you will need to board some animals (an extra cost) or take them with you when you go on family vacations.
  • Home. Be sure that your house will be a good  “fit” for the pet you choose. Do you have a big enough backyard for a Labrador retriever? Will your apartment allow pets? Is there a place around your home where you can walk your dog? A stress-free home makes a happy home for you and your pet.
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