One of the most wonderful things you can do for your child is to give them a pet to care for. Learning responsibility and empathy for living creatures is an essential life skill they need. Sadly, vets and animal care professionals continue to be called upon to intervene in neglect cases. Many of these animals are pets that the owners simply couldn’t manage. There are many reasons for this. It’s not always about cruelty.
So how can you be sure your family doesn’t take on too much when it comes to taking on a pet? Start by considering your budget. All pets cost money to care for. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy pet ownership with a small income. But it may mean you need to choose an animal that won’t break the bank in veterinary, food, or care costs.
The next thing you need to consider is your accommodation. If you want to own a horse, do you live close enough to the stables for an emergency or to regularly tend to them? If you live in a small apartment, do you really want a juvenile Alsatian? Even if you have a large house and a good sized garden, you might prefer a pet that doesn’t run around a lot.
Allergies and lifestyle choices will also have some bearing on the suitability of different pets. Dogs must be walked twice a day. Cats can be quite active at night. Lizards aren’t keen on the cold, and tortoises might choose to hibernate.
Pets also need a lot of accessories. It’s not just food bowls and collars you need to worry about. You might need extra bedding or things like a horse fleece rug to ensure they are comfortable if it gets cold. There are also accessories to curb unwanted behaviour. For example, a bell on a cat collar can reduce their chance of catching unsuspecting wildlife. Chew toys for dogs will give your pup an alternative to your favourite shoes.
You might be considering a particular breed of cat, dog or pony. However, please bear in mind that there are thousands of rescued and homeless animals out there. They could offer you just as much love as a pedigree breed. Charitable organisations are not funded by the Government. Maybe you could consider purchasing your pet accessories from their fund-raising stores? Why not offer a donation of pet food from time to time?
One of the most important considerations for your first family pet is the age and future size of your human family. While it is very rare for any pet to deliberately harm a baby, it is important you never leave your pet unsupervised around small children. Equally, your toddler may not fully understand that the cat’s tail is attached and painful when pulled. Managing their interactions can reduce the risk of unwanted behaviour. Don’t forget to keep pet food and medicines out of sight of children (and vice versa!)
Pet ownership is wonderfully rewarding. With a few careful considerations and a little planning, you can enjoy a lifetime with your new family pet.