From Tweety Pie and Sylvester to Bugs Bunny and Spot the Dog: A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Pet

A friend of mine recently confessed that he’d never had a pet as a child. My reaction was both one of surprise and pity. I looked at him like he had been deprived in some way and had been cruelly treated by his parents. How could he have gotten this far in life and become a fully rounded adult without the wonderful experience of a pet?! He has no understanding as to why I’m so attached to my dog and why I’ll happily take him out in all weathers and spend an enormous amount of money giving him everything that he needs. What I didn’t realise was that, my friend Pete wasn’t deprived, I was just lucky!

Pet Academy

rabbitChildhood pets can teach a child a lot of things. Firstly, they teach responsibility. A child that has begged to have a rabbit could be allowed to keep one but on the proviso that they fed it, played with it and maybe even cleaned it out now and again.

Keeping pets also teaches children an important lesson on life and death. Invariably they will experience the loss of their pet at some point, which although distressing, will be an experience that they can cope with and understand through sensitive handling by their parents. This then prepares them for when death and loss occurs within human life.

Involving them in the health needs of their pet will teach them a little about science and medicine. For example, having them watch whilst you administer medicine such as Eliminall cat flea treatment will teach them a little about biology, even though it might be of the animal rather than human variety!

Tasks that are involved in caring for a pet can have health and general well-being benefits. Walking a dog or playing with it in the garden takes the child away from the television or computer and means that they get some exercise. They can also develop their motor skills and coordination by playing games such fetch.

Having considered the benefits of childhood pet ownership, the next step is to decide what kind is the most suitable for your family.

Once I saw a Fishy…

Fish are a fairly low maintenance starter-pet. Impressive to look at and with fun accessories to add to their tanks, fish are a good way to introduce basic pet care to your child. As they take up very little room, are inexpensive and take little care other than feeding and cleaning out, this is an excellent first pet choice. Your child gets the fun of picking out their pet, naming and caring for it; however the responsibility level is fairly low for the family. You can even get fish food that will last in the tank for protracted periods of time so that you can go on holiday without having to arrange care.

Night Fever

Again a fairly low maintenance pet, a hamster or gerbil has the added advantage of being cute and fluffy but your child can handle them and keep them out of the way in their own rooms. The only slight disadvantage is that hamsters are nocturnal and so may be sleeping during the day and may make noise at night.

Raining Cats and Dogs

willow_catCats and dogs are probably the most popular of childhood pets; however they are slightly more high maintenance to care for. These are real family pets and should only be adopted if the whole family is keen on the idea. They need feeding at specific intervals, exercise, amusement and either letting in and out of the house or being taken for walks. They also need cleaning and having their health maintained. They can be expensive and you will be required to arrange a pet sitter or a visit to the cattery/kennels should you be going away overnight or longer. On the upside, the ownership of cats and dogs really teaches your child about care, responsibility and life. Your pet will become a real member of the family with a real personality and the all-important fluffy, cute factor. Ultimately a dog or cat becomes a special friend for your child.