Caring for pets should be a joy and a privilege for children, not a punishment. If your kids come to see their pets as nothing but chore-inducing nuisances, then you may be reinforcing negative attitudes towards animals and a lack of empathy for them, the exact opposite of your original intent. If your children are not ready to make good on their promises, you must be prepared to do everything yourself, at least for a time.
Get the kids involved at the offset. Encourage them to compile lists of the pros and cons of each type of pet related to your family’s home situation and lifestyle. Make charts comparing different types of companion animals. If you are contemplating adding more than one type of pet to your family, be sure that each one’s safety can be assured. How will you mix cats and rabbits, or fish?
You might also consider acquiring two new pets of the same species. Each animal deserves to have the companionship of a fellow member of its own species. Two cats, for example, could keep each other company when the rest of the household is out during the day. My own two cats, who are sisters, don’t exactly interact with each other a lot, but they do take comfort in each other’s presence, especially when something like a thunderstorm makes them feel insecure. If you like mice, housing several mice together in a large airy home will give them more opportunities to play and provide you with an entertaining daily circle of activity.
Once your entire family has settled on the right species, you can start thinking about your new pet in more detail. If it would be a dog, would you prefer a mongrel or a purebreed? What size, color and features would suit everyone’s taste? Do you need a dog that can be trusted around a baby and is tolerant of very young children? If you have lots of flower beds that you would hate to see dug up by a dog avoid terriers, as they have a propensity for digging. What color cat would you like. If your kids are going for small rodents, would they prefer rats or mice, gerbils or hamsters? If they want variety, then a small group of mice might be just the thing, as they can be found in all sorts of colors and patterns making it easy to tell each individual apart.
Please do not ever consider trying to turn wild animals, such as raccoons or squirrels, into pets. It’s cruel to deprive wildlife of their natural habitat in their natural habitats. Those adorable little baby animals are likely to grow up to be destructive when kept in a human house, or quick to bite, as they mature and their instincts fully develop. They will become impossible to keep, and yet unafraid of humans and poorly equipped to survive the rigors of life in the wild. Making a wild animal into a pet is a recipe for disaster and its the animal that inevitably suffers the consequences. Please think twice, too, before caging a wild bird, as birds are born to fly and cover large distances.
When you’ve finally settled on the species you decide which sex you want. Male cats may spray the furniture when indoors, if not neutered. Two male mice, when kept together, may fight, while a colony of female mice can live harmoniously together. If you’re adding small caged pets like rodents to your family, make sure you don’t inadvertently bring home a male or a female, or you’ll soon find that you have fewer critters than you can manage.
If you welcome female cats or dogs into your home, don’t let them have babies so your children can witness “the miracle of birth.” It is far better for your kids to see the responsibility of spaying and neutering cats and dogs so that you do not contribute to the problem of pet overpopulation. There are already too many unwanted pets who end their short lives in shelters. Spaying and neutering bring health benefits to animals, as well. For example, neutered male cats will not get sprayed in the house or roam too far into the fights, and spayed female cats will be less subject to certain medical conditions as they age.
Once you’ve decided on the perfect family pet you’ll need to gather information to better prepare you for life with your new friend or friends. Involve your kids in research and reading as much as you can. Do not confuse your research with aspects of pet care, as important as it is, as it is also a good idea to have information on hand that can help you if your pets ever show symptoms of illness. Information on signs and symptoms and their possible causes can help you determine when it is safe to “watch and wait” and when immediate veterinary treatment is vital.
Take your kids with you when you are ready to start shopping around for that perfect pet. Be sure to stick to reputable sources (ie no puppy mills) that provide hygienic conditions for the animals in their care. If the caregivers also display gentleness and spend time playing with their pets, the animals will be more likely to develop into affectionate and sociable pets.
Consider adopting a cat or dog from a reputable animal shelter. Here you’ll find animals that have already been affected in human hands and have been abandoned or mistreated. You’ll be rescuing them and offering them another chance for a happy life. Although they may require some extra patience on your part and lots of TLC to get them over their past traumas, you’ll be rewarded by knowing that you’ve given a good home to an animal in need, one who may otherwise have had euthanasia. .
When you’re out pet hunting, make sure your kids know how to move slowly and quietly, so as not to frighten the animals they’re looking at. During your search of shelters, pet shops or private homes that have placed classified ads, at some point you and your children will find yourself looking at the face, the sweetest face on earth, the face of the little creature whom you absolutely must have. It will love at first sight, your hearts will melt, and you will be sure that this is the one, even if he or she does not meet all of the criteria that you had so painstakingly defined beforehand!