Deciding if you’re ready to open up your home to a pet is a big step to take, and it requires careful consideration, especially if you have kids. You’ll need to think about the cost, time commitment, emotional energy, and logistical complication involved in having a pet, and then determine which kind is right for your family. A fish is low cost and low maintenance, but a dog is more memorable, active, and engaging. You know your family best, so if you’re thinking about getting a pet, here are some important questions to ask:
Is our family ready?
Having a pet is a great way to teach kids about responsibility, empathy, and to help them learn to cope with loss. A pet can also be a great resource for kids emotionally, because of the unconditional love and attention they can give. However, very young children might not be prepared for the responsibility of walking a dog every day or changing kitty litter, so if your kids are under the age of ten, be prepared to take on much of the actual work yourself.
Can we afford a pet?
Furry friends can be expensive – Food, toys, and medical costs for a pet can go well beyond your expectations. Buying food in bulk, making toys from old socks or recycling, and taking reasonable measures to prevent heart disease, dental problems, and other costly medical issues can help keep costs down. But if you’re not in a stable financial place, having a pet might only make things worse, which isn’t fair for all parties involved.
Is our house pet-friendly?
Plenty of pets live happily in little houses and apartments, but if you rent, having a pet can cause issues if you need to move to a new place. Birds, rodents, reptiles, and fish are great apartment pets because they’re perfectly happy spending most of their time indoors in a tank or cage. Dogs and cats can be trickier, because they need more outside time. If you don’t have access to a garden or a park, or live near a busy road that might not be safe, think carefully about what kind of pet you can safely accommodate.
Not every kid is ready to care for a pet, especially if they’re young or easily frightened. Take a trip to a petting zoo or animal shelter to volunteer and see if your family has the right dynamic to take a pet in. Timing is also important to consider. With a pet, your ability to travel last minute is much less likely. If you have a family vacation you’re planning or a wedding out of town, it might be worthwhile to wait until after the trip to settle down with an animal at home, so everyone can adjust together in a stable environment. Also bear in mind, that while a mouse or a fish might only live a year or two, a lizard or a dog might live fifteen years or more. If your kids are older, when they leave for college, you might be looking after the pet alone. Make sure you’re ready for the commitment before you make any decisions.
If you do decide that your family is ready for a pet, there are plenty of resources on how to train and care for your new family member and prepare your house for an animal. If and when you’re ready to make the decision, there will be lots of new things to consider, but lots of amazing benefits and memories to be made, as well!
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