“You can have a cat when you have your own house!”
I remember well these words of wisdom that my father spoke in response to my asking for a kitten for the millionth time while growing up. Although he finally gave in and got me a kitten when I was 16 years old, these words have echoed in my mind with each new pet my husband and I add to our own family. Fast forward 10 years to my husband and me bartering over whom will brush out the fur of our Siberian husky. I believe my dad may have been on to something.
Our Family Pet
We currently own a cat (yes, the same one I mentioned), a dog, and a goldfish (that may or may not die monthly and be replaced before my toddler daughter notices). My husband and I have always loved animals, and our daughter is no different. She is an animal fanatic. And because of that, we have opened our home to many a family pet. We love the bond that she has formed with each one of her pets.
Raising Kids with a Family Pet
The Pros of Raising Kids with a Pet
I love that she is learning responsibility and how to care for others just by owning a few pets. But it isn’t all a breeze, especially for us parents. She absolutely loves to help feed them and give treats. She does a good job being gentle and kind to them, which is a major plus because she is learning empathy very young. Taking care of our family pet and being kind to the animals because she doesn’t want to hurt them is a valuable lesson to be learned. However, because she is so young still, most of the actual responsibility falls onto my husband and me.
I would be lying if I said I don’t fantasize about dropping off our precious pooch at the pound every week, especially on those days when she has chewed the legs off the couch or swallowed a mechanical cat toy and required emergency surgery which costs thousands of dollars (yes, that actually happened). Everything would be easier, and my house would be much cleaner if I did go ahead and stop fantasizing about dropping off our dog at the SPCA and just do it. However, I believe my kiddo would be crushed if she didn’t have her puppy pal. All of the aggravation of owning pets and caring for them is worth it, for the most part, when your child has a buddy and special bond with their pets.
The Cons of Taking Care of a Pet while Raising Kids
Some of the unforeseen cons of having a family pet would be, first of all, the cost. Pets are not cheap to own! From grooming, food, vet bills to flea and tick treatments and sickness or injuries that seem to come at the worst time financially, it is quite expensive to have a family pet. Be sure to budget these things in before you decided whether a hamster or a horse would be a better fit for your family budget.
Secondly, I would say a con would be allergies. Children are having difficulty with allergies more than ever before, and pets can cause serious complications. Be sure that your child can be around the particular pet you are considering, as well as the accessories they need. Some things to consider will be dandruff, cat litter, bedding, or even hay or straw if you are considering an outside pet such as a chicken or horse. Don’t be discouraged if your kids ask for a particular pet, some breeds are hypoallergenic, or hairless pets are available. Fish are also a very safe option for kids that have severe allergies.
Another thing to consider when shopping for a family pet would be how much space and time you have to commit to a pet. For example, you wouldn’t want a dog breed that needs a lot of exercise and attention if you work long hours and don’t have outside access. Many apartments don’t allow dogs or cats at all, so check with your landlord before coming home with that adorable German Shepard puppy.
Overall, I would say that raising kids with a family pet is worth it–the lifelong lessons your children will learn are a huge positive, as long as you choose a pet that is the right fit for your family and your particular family needs. Having enough space to take care of your pet comfortably, enough time to devote to care, and enough money to pay for needs are all very important.
See also: how to introduce your pets to your baby.