Yes, they become loyal family members who offer unconditional love and friendship. Yet, introducing a new pet into the family home isn't all sweetness and light. It can all seem a little daunting - worse even than that fateful day when, for the very first time, you brought your partner home to meet Mum and Dad. After all, like children and husbands or wives, pets do have minds of their own. And, again like children and partners, they need looking after. Still, with correct supervision, youngsters adapt. They quickly acquire nurturing skills if they need to consider the welfare of another creature apart from themselves. And if they don't look after their 'Doodles', then the guinea pig doesn't survive for long.
It's worth persevering, though. After all, there is growing evidence to show that when children look after an animal there are significant social benefits. For many children, the family pet is their best friend, providing companionship and love. Equally, as the pet is dependent on the family, children will also learn to be responsible for its welfare and care.
Ok, when should I get my child a pet?
Children should be at an age where they are able to demonstrate self-control. For example, they need to learn that if they constantly pick up a young untamed animal who may want to 'play fight' there may be repercussions. Also children need to learn that pets are not toys to be dressed up or played with in a dolls' house.
Choosing the Right Pet
Do your homework. With such a huge variety of pets available it is difficult to know where to start looking. Something slithery and exotic like a salamander or cosy and coy like a Siamese kitten. To help with your decision look at the needs of dif animals and consider how a pet would fit in with your lifestyle. How much care would be required? What sort of food does it need? What are its housing requirements? Do you have enough room to accommodate your new family member? And, not least, how much will it cost? Whittle down the list of suggested pets and, with facts to hand, ask your child for an opinion. Your child may have dreamt of owning a dog, but maybe you are away from home a lot and would find it difficult to care for its needs. So, on a practical level, this may not be a feasible option. Explain this. And offer alternatives. And while you're about it, investigate the different characteristics of pets. Some animals may look sweet and fluffy but may have a fiery streak, so should be treated with caution.
Popular Pets for Children:
Goldfish: Goldfish are easy to keep and require simple tanks. They make ideal pets especially if you live in a small house.
Guinea Pigs and Rabbits: Guinea pigs and rabbits are hugely popular pets for children. They should be bought at a young age and handled regularly.
Hamsters: Hamsters make ideal first pets and can become very affectionate if handled frequently. However, as they are nocturnal creatures, they will be awake when the children are asleep! Also, bear in mind that their life expectancy is about 3 years.
Birds: Parakeets & Cockatiels make excellent family birds as they are lowmaintenance. Budgies, canaries and finches also make superb pets, providing cheery company.
Cats: Cats are great with children. Youngsters will enjoy comforting their pet cat or kitten, and will cherish the moments when their feline friend is curled up asleep on their lap.
Dogs: The nations' favourite pet. As there are in excess of 150 different dog breeds, it pays to do your research first. Find out which breeds are good with children and those which aren't.
How should my child care for their pet?
Children can get involved with all levels of care, although they will need supervising at first. They will be champing at the bit to help care for their animal as soon as they bring it home for the first time. But this enthusiasm can wither as the novelty wears off. So, keep the momentum going by getting them to help with grooming, or asking them to top up the water bottle or food bowl. Also, teach your children how to pick up and hold the animal correctly.