Wednesday, April 24, 2013

how do i know if my child is ready for a pet

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owning a pet is no easy business.  most types require daily care, attention, and love.  we have two cats that have been with us since before my son was born.  however, due to a recent interest in hamsters and mice, we are considering getting Bear a little tiny furry friend.  i will admit, though, that i am somewhat hesitant because i know that, ultimately, i will be the one providing the care, or at least closely monitoring it.
 
all this got me to thinking...
how do i know when my child is ready for a pet?
 
here are some tips to consider when thinking of getting your child a pet:
 
  • Make sure your child is old enough to do some of the care for the pet.  This can include watering, feeding, and playing with the little animal.  Keep in mind that several animals, such as cats, hamsters, birds, etc will likely require you to clean their litter boxes or cages for sanitation reasons. {NOTE: it is not safe for pregnant women to clean out a cat litter box}
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  • Keep track of how often your child asks for a pet.  Does the topic only arise when you're at the pet store or the house of someone with a pet?  By noting when and where your child asks, you can determine if it's a true desire or just brought on by being around the animal and then forgotten.
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  • Does your child understand the concept of being gentle when handling animals?  Pet care often requires a soft touch {especially with tiny ones} to keep the animal safe.
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  • As a family, make sure you have the means and time to care for the pet and give it the attention it deserves.
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  • Give your child some simple, age-appropriate household chores {making their bed, emptying the bathroom trash, taking their dirty clothes to the laundry room}.  If they are able to consistently perform them with minimal supervision and reminders, they are showing that they are responsible enough to care for a pet.
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  • You child should understand boundaries when it comes to other's pets.  While at the park, children should be taught to approach new animals cautiously and wait for the approval from the owner before getting too close or touching it.  After permission, the child should gently and calmly touch the animal.  Such boundaries will help your child handle your own pet in a way that won't startle or anger the animal.
 
After all these points to contemplate, you're ready to get {or not get} a pet.  Just please remember: 
A pet is not a gift.
It is a commitment for the length of their life.
 
 
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5 comments:

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

These are great tips! My husband is too allergic to the universe for us to get a dog or cat, but my kids have had some good practice with animals at my parents' house this week!

Piwi Mama said...

Great post, we are going through this exact discussion at our house at the moment

Shaunna Evans said...

Perfect timing! My daughters are obsessed with the idea of getting a dog lately. It's been gradually building for the past two years. Thanks for the tips!

suzyhomeschooler said...

Hi Andie!
Long time reader, first time commenter. I love your site, you always have the most creative ideas.
I agree full-heartedly with almost every point you've made in this post and think this list would be an excellent starting point for anyone considering getting their child a pet. I just had one thing I wanted to say, in regards to safety and pregnant women scooping litter boxes.
There are alot of myths out there but if you do a bit of reading on the subject, you'll find that its actually safe for pregnant women to scoop their cat's litter box in most cases.
The concern comes from Toxoplasmosis which causes birth defects. However the majority of pregnant women who contract Toxoplasmosis do so from eating improperly cooked meat, not from contact with cat feces. Another way of contracting Toxoplasmosis is from working in your yard and not wearing gloves, as its commonly found in bacteria in dirt.
Indoor cats very rarely have Toxoplasmosis. Outdoor cats have an increased risk, however if you have an outdoor cat or and indoor/outdoor cat then there is a simple test that your vet can preform to find out if they have Toxoplasmosis or not. If they do have it, there is a 3-week daily dosage of medication your vet can provide which will kill it (the Toxoplasmosis, not the cat, lol).
It is worth noting that because cats are just a carrier of Toxoplasmosis, and they don't actually suffer from carrying it, many vets don't feel its worth the time and headache to preform the test or prescribe the medication. Especially if the cat is allowed outside and will most likely contract it again.
If you're not sure if your cat has Toxoplasmosis then you can still scoop your cat's litter box, just take the same precautions you would handling raw meat or working in your garden: wear gloves and wash your hands. Truthfully, the life-long daily exposure to Toxoplasmosis through dirt and cooking is so much that the majority of people actually have built up a natural immunity to it and don't even realize it. Still, when pregnant its better safe than sorry which is why I say either test the cat or wear gloves to scoop the litter box.
Again, besides that one point about the litter box, I completely agree with your list full-heartedly. I'm actually already doing several things on this list to see how ready my son is for the dog he keeps begging to have.

The Monko said...

This is a really useful post. We already had pets when Goblin was born so he has grown up with a cat and guineapigs. But it has been difficult protecting their safety as he gets used to treating them with care. So if I was introducing a pet into a pet free home I would definitely be very cautious with young kids for the animals welfare point of view. Your tips are really great, I'm pinning to the SPP pinterest board

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