A pet can be a great addition to a family as well as a great learning tool for children. They are also a big responsibility.
“Mum, dad – we’ve been thinking. Can we have a pet?”
It’s a question virtually all parents will hear at some point – be it a puppy, kitten, or a rabbit, or maybe a hamster. The principal is the same – your children desperately want a pet and are willing to agree to almost anything to get it. But while their pleading eyes might be hard to refuse, you need to ensure that not only are they fully aware of the long-term responsibilities that pet ownership entails, but that you are, too.
Having a pet can be a wonderful experience for children. Learning to take care of another life and experiencing the love and affection it exhibits in return is something children will never be able to get from video games.
Having a pet is also a long-term commitment for the entire family. It might not be quite up there with planning for a new baby, but it doesn’t fall far short. Are you – and your family – ready for the challenge?
Make sure you have the time – and the money – for a pet
Whether you buy a puppy from a breeder or rescue a dog from a local animal shelter, there is no doubt that pets are expensive. Can you afford not only the food but also the inevitable vet’s bills, insurance and kennel fees?
Are you out at work most of the day? It can be unfair to leave a dog alone for large periods of the day on a regular basis.
Do you enjoy long vacations abroad? Are you ready to adapt your life to suit that of your pet?
Are you prepared to train your child in learning to take care of their pet – and also to take care of walks, feeds and clean-outs yourself when interest starts to wane?
Get to know your local vet
Even before your pet’s vaccinations are due or it gets sick, make sure you have the name and number of a good vet. Try to do a little more research than jotting down the first name in the phone book – ask friends or neighbours who they recommend.
Things you may want to invest in before getting a dog
Whether to spay or neuter your dog is an important question that you will want to tackle before it even comes home with you. For many pet owners, sterilising a dog is the most responsible thing to do – especially if it’s female, and you are not willing to take on the extra role of finding new homes for a litter of puppies on a regular basis.
Then there are the unwanted guests your dog will bring home with him. No matter how clean you keep your home, dogs get fleas, so you’ll want to invest in a reliable and effective flea treatment that is safe both for your pet and your family. Don’t wait until you have an infestation – ask your vet about effective dog flea treatments at your first visit.
All this aside, pet owners agree – so long as the decision is made with consideration for the commitment rather than on impulse, a pet is sure to bring joy and warmth to a family home.
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