There are many advantages to a child growing up in a household which includes a pet. Studies have shown there can be both physical and psychological health benefits. However, owning a pet is a big responsibility. Before going out and getting a pet, numerous things need to be considered.
Physical health benefits Research has shown a child who lives in a house with a pet often has a better developed immune system and is less likely to have allergies. A stronger immune system means fewer sick days away from school.
Psychological health benefits A child who has a pet is less prone to anxiety and depression. They can boost confidence, empathy and help the shy child relax in social situations. Having a pet teaches responsibility. Children who have a pet at home are likely to be more sociable than those who don’t.
Dogs, cats and rabbits are good to cuddle which helps a child relax. A pet rat or guinea pig can enjoy a gentle cuddle. Birds such as galahs can spend time out of their cage and enjoy being stroked. Although fish can’t be cuddled they are relaxing to watch swimming around their aquarium.
A pet bird such as a galah can spend time out of its cage. Image:pixabay
Think carefully before giving a pet as a present There are many reasons to have a pet for your child. However, the decision to get a pet should not be made lightly. Some people think a pet is an easy Christmas present, sure to delight. If you are a friend or relative, talk to the child’s parents before turning up with a pet as a present. After Christmas many pets end up at animal shelters either because they were unwanted presents or families are going on holidays and don’t want to make care arrangements.
Questions to ask before getting a pet • Will the pet fit in with your lifestyle? If not, perhaps there is another pet which would be more suitable. A big dog may be too boisterous but a small breed may be a good choice. However, some small breeds are not suitable pets for young children so you need to do a bit of research.
• If you are renting, are you allowed to have a pet?
• Do you have a secure cage of a suitable size for a pet that needs one? Rabbits can burrow out if the cage floor is not secure.
• Do you have the space and facilities for the pet? A large dog needs plenty of room to run around. It also needs regular walking and training. Large dogs can be very strong and may need an adult to control them when out for a walk.
Large dogs needs lots of exercise. Image:pixabay
• Does your family have the time to care for the pet? Some dogs and cats need regular grooming.
• If the pet is a dog or cat, will there be someone at home often enough to provide company? Pets can get become destructive if they are lonely and bored.
• Can the expenses of a pet be met by your household budget? A puppy doesn’t eat much but a full grown large dog does. Vet bills for cats and dogs are expensive. Ongoing costs such as flea treatments, worming and annual vaccinations add up. Perhaps a rabbit or guinea pig would be more affordable.
Rabbits make good pets and can be house trained. Image:Marie Vonow
• Is it a safe pet for your child? Some breeds of dog have a reputation of unsuitability as a child’s pet. Some types of cat make better pets for children than others. An individual animal may have a temperamental personality or have been mistreated making it unsuitable to have around children.
• Is your child ready for a pet? Will he/she treat the pet with care and respect?
• Who is going to provide care for the pet? A child may lose interest and it may end up being Mum who is cleaning out the rat cage. If there are shared custody arrangements, who will care for the pet in the child’s absence?
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A pet can be a wonderful addition to a household and bring much joy. Childhood pets are often remembered with fondness. However, the decision to get a pet needs to be made with care and it is important to get the right type of pet to suit your family.
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