Let Your Children Help Choose the Family Pet - Part One

May 22 08:08 2008 Barbara Freedman-De Vito Print This Article

Learn how to keep your children involved in the process of choosing , preparing for, and taking care of family pets. This three-part article also provides lots of helpful advice on choosing pets and on pet care.

Have your children been hounding you for a dog,Guest Posting cat, rabbit or hamster ? Are you already contemplating adding a new family member in the form of a pet ? Let your children have a say in your choice of what type of animal you'll be welcoming into your home. As with many big decisions in life, such as moving to a new home, the more you keep your children involved in the decision-making process and preparations, the more they'll be excited about, and ready to participate in, the responsibilities and adjustments that the change entails. In the case of a new pet, this early involvement in the choice of an animal will help your children along the way to accepting responsibility for their choices and their actions, plus it will contribute towards their growing up to be caring and accountable as adults.The first decision to be made regarding a new pet is, what species shall it be ? Have your children always dreamed of having a dog who would accompany them on their adventures ? Pehaps they want a soft, warm and affectionate cat to cuddle up with on a rainy day and tell their troubles to. Have your kids wished for a whiskered little brown mouse who would climb into a snug shirt pocket to retrieve a hidden nut or take a little nap ?In addition to such heart-based desires for particular types of pets, there are also some fundamental issues that must be addressed. What type of pet is your family in the best position to house and care for ? How much space, money and time do you have to devote to your pets ? Animals are not toys to be bought on impulse and then tossed away when they cease to amuse or become a burden. By considering such important questions and making well thought out decisions at the outset, you can avoid contributing to the sorrow of animals who are abandoned or end their short lives in animal shelters.The first issue to think about is space. Do you have a larged enclosed yard  safe from cars and other dangers, such as broken glass or harmful chemicals ? Do you live in a city apartment where a dog would have to be cooped up all day, with nothing to do but look forward to the brief evening walks ?Cats can settle more comfortably into apartment living and, in an urban environment, cats are far safer remaining indoors than allowed to roam where all sorts of dangers like cars, dogs, diseases, discarded antifreeze could prematurely end their lives. The outside world can be fatal for cats. For example, in winter outdoor cats may climb up under a car's hood for the residual warmth of the engine, and then be killed when the unsuspecting driver starts up his car.Small rodents don't require much space, although you should build them as large a house as you possibly can, and never confine them to sad little cages devoid of space to run and play, or lacking in platforms, wheels and trapezes to entertain them. Large wood and screen homes are also better ventilated than those with glass or plastic sides and thus much healthier for small companion animals.Money is another easily overlooked, but important factor to consider when deciding what pet your family would like. You can avoid later heartbreak by doing a few calculations in advance. While small pets such as rats, mice, hamsters, and gerbils require that you furnish them with a living space of their own, their food, water bottles and such are inexpensive. Cats and dogs are much larger and eat more, increasing the size of your monthly food bills, plus they require regular visits to the vet for routine shots, not to mention the one time expense of spaying or neutering procedures. Once you've made the decision to welcome any animals into your home, you have the responsibility to give them the best care and treatment possible.Time is of the essence. Is your entire household off at work or school all day ? Will a highly social animal, such as a dog, spend most days alone and forlorn ? Certain types of pets demand more of your time, in more ways than one. First of all, consider the daily time needed to handle your pets' daily needs, such as feeding, washing water dishes, cleaning out litter pans, changing fish tanks, grooming, or dog walking. Will these routine chores be a pleasure to perform for the animals you love, an unpleasant necessity that you really don't mind, or an unwelcome burden that leads you to resent the presence of these animals in your home ?The second critical part of the question of available time is the important role that love and affection play in your pets' well-being. While a colony of mice might not mind if they're not played with by you or your children for a few days, dogs and cats will suffer for it. Some animals' emotional stability depends on the love they receive from the human members of the family. Cuddling, patting, and play can make all the difference in a pet's happiness, and in how well they fit into their home environment. Would you prefer a cat who runs and hides or tries to scratch you when you approach her, or one who rubs up against your leg and climbs into your lap for a cuddle ? To a large extent, it is your behavior and that of your children that will determine the personality and behavior of the pets who share your home. Happy and sweetly dispositioned pets are those who are well cared for and well loved. Before taking on pets who need a lot of your time, be sure that you have time to give. In addition, give thought to what will happen to your pets when you head off on vacation. Would your pets go with you, or do you have friends or relatives who can come into your home and care for your pets, as well as spend time with them ? Or would you board your pets ?Pets are often seen as a way to teach children responsibility, and the children are the ones who will be expected to take the time to attend to their pet's physical and emotional needs. This approach can be of great value to children. If, however, the children are not yet ready to handle such reponsibilities, or they neglect their duties and lose interest in their pets, it is the animals who suffer the consequences. Therefore, in the process of selecting family pets, you must decide how much time and devotion you yourself are willing to give to your household animals. You need to be willing to clean those litter pans or walk the dog in the pouring rain, if necessary. Your pets cannot be made to suffer . Animals are living beings with needs and feelings and they cannot be made to bear the brunt of neglect in case the children renege on their promises to do everything, if only they were  allowed to have that dog or rabbit or other pet.

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Barbara Freedman-De Vito
Barbara Freedman-De Vito

Barbara Freedman-De Vito has been involved with children and animals for many years. She's been a teacher, children's librarian, wildlife rehabilitator, artist and writer on topics related to both children and animals. Her husband, Bob, has also run an animal shelter and done animal rescue work. You can see Bird T-Shirts, Bumper Stickers, Mugs, Magnets and other bird gifts in her shop.

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