Choosing a Family Pet

by Katie Brazerol

The preschool years are often the time when children begin asking their families for a pet. They may have visions of fluffy little balls of fur to hold and cuddle and love. However, the reality of pet ownership entails much more.

Pet ownership can be very beneficial. Pets can improve mental and physical health, prevent loneliness, and boost self-esteem. However, pet ownership also requires a lot of commitment. Even though a child may promise to take care of the pet, it is an adult’s responsibility to make sure the pet’s needs are met.

Here are 5 questions to consider when choosing a pet for your family:

1. What kind of pet does your child want?

Not all pets are created equal. Dogs require daily care, while goldfish only need to be fed every two to three days. Large pets may not be ideal for apartments, and small pets may get hurt more easily by young children. Choose a pet that fits your home, your child’s age, and your family’s activity level.

2. Are you ready for the commitment?

Many pets live 5-10 years. Before choosing a pet, think about the commitment required to care for that pet for many years. If you travel often, make sure you are prepared to have backup care for your pet while you are away. Some families choose a fish as a first pet because of the low level of commitment required.

3. Does anyone have allergies?

Many people are allergic to pet dander – which can consist of shed skin cells, hair, or feathers. Some animals shed more dander than others. Before choosing a pet, make sure no one in your family is allergic. It is very unfortunate for both your family and the pet if you are unable to keep it.

Pet cat4. Are you prepared for veterinarian costs?

Animals require medical care just like humans. Caring for a pet doesn’t stop at just feeding them and providing them with a home. Most pets require checkups with a veterinarian, and many animals require regular vaccinations. In addition, pets can get sick. It is important to be aware of the costs of regular well-visits and illness care.

5. Should you adopt from a store, shelter, or breeder?

Pets are available for purchase in many ways. The National Humane Society encourages people to adopt animals from shelters. However, it is important to make sure your children will be safe around the pet. Understanding the animal’s background will help prepare you for behavior issues. Disclose the ages and temperaments of your children when talking to shelter staff. If you choose to adopt from a breeder or a store, ask about the temperament of the animal you are interested in.

For additional help in choosing the perfect pet for your family, please visit the following resources:

Take time to research the pet that would be perfect for your family. Cute little furballs turn into daily responsibilities. Make sure your whole family is ready for the commitment!

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