Updated: Sep 11
Do you have a pet or are you planning on getting a pet?
There are so many considerations for getting a pet, and so many perspectives within one family even. So how do you make the decision about getting a pet and what pet to get?
Growing up my family always had a dog and it would seem there were a lot of dogs. It was always very interesting how the dog would attach itself to one particular member of the family - although I'm sure it loved all members of the family. I don't remember discussing the pros and cons of getting a pet, I just remember my parents would make a decision and go get one.
When I first started a family we had a dog and a cat. But my youngest son was allergic to animals and so we had to find them new homes. When he was 4 though he wanted a dog so badly he decided he didn't care how much the allergies acted up. And before too long we had a dog, two cats, a hamster and a bird!
Again, I am not sure we fully discussed all the aspects of pet ownership with the children and I found that the care and clean-up of all the pets landed on my shoulders and the dealings with the death of a pet was given to my husband.
Maybe that is why my house is now without pets. They are definitely a commitment and require a lot of care and now that the kids are out of the house I am not sure I want to take on that responsibility again. Don't get me wrong, I love animals and really miss having a pet. But, the clean up, the training, the need for attention and limits on travel are all aspects I am just not wanting in my life right now.
So how do you decide whether you want a pet, and what kind?
The Benjamin Project has a mission to help educate children on responsible pet ownership and they have a lot of resources to help with that - including the Alphabet of Pet Care which is a great introduction! And, all proceeds from the purchases on their website are donated to animal wellness charities!
Talking to kids about our responsibilities to a pet ownership.
Loving a pet is the easiest part of having a pet for sure. However, there is so much more needed to care for a pet than just love. It is important that children understand the responsibilities of having a pet, the sacrifices needed to care for the pet and the commitments they are expected to make in order to have a pet.
Creating lists is a good way to show children what caring for a pet needs. List all the chores, finances, time etc. associated with having a pet - you can also list all the advantages of having a pet (exercise, fun, love, cuddles).
Broadview University has a great article for teaching kids about pet ownership.
They talk about responsibility, routine, proper care and hygiene, creating a budget for expenses, and sacrificing time for the pet.
When a pet dies
I think it is also very important to realize that eventually, your child will have to deal with the death of that pet. This is often one of their first experiences with death and loss. No amount of conversation can prepare you for the emotions connected to the death of a pet. But, honest conversation about understanding the health of an animal etc. will open the door for conversation about feelings connected to the death of an animal when that time comes.
The Empty Cage (now available in the Quite a Character bookstore) is a picture book about a child dealing with the death of his pet. This book, one in the Feeling Empty series, is meant to allow children to connect to a character experiencing something similar to themselves, to talk about emotions to help them express how they are feeling and to open conversation so they can work through their grief.
“Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.”