So, My Kids Want A Pet!

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM


Every year around the Holidays, parents often soften to the idea of acquiring a new pet for the household, a process that is a multi-faceted one.

The very first step in our process begins with one or more family discussions.

All ages included, sit your family down to discuss issues surrounding this impending decision.  Bring up points like responsible roles that will be assigned to able bodies.  Kids need to understand that there is so much more to a pet than simply having a cute little puppy or kitten scampering around their heels.  Set down rules!!!   Without these actions, mom usually suffers, having to account for cleanable mishaps as well as permanent, costly damages to furniture and carpeting.

Aside from traditional puppies and kittens, there are often choices like aquariums for fishes, small mammals, or reptiles as well.  These set-ups can be fun to construct as a family project, and fish aquariums can serve as a night light for kids, along with the tranquil humming of the filter motor and motion by the fish, keeping children comfortable through the night time.  Reptiles are non-allergenic, low cost and easy to manage as well.  These are choices that even older kids select for college.

However, it’s dogs and cats that draw most of our attention.  While cats make great household pets, some folks tend to have allergic responses to them. And, of course, there is the issue of a litter box, that requires regular care to avoid smelliness and debris.  Pregnant moms should always avoid the litter box as certain parasites like Toxoplasmosis, can pose a threat to a developing fetus.

Aside from the negatives, once families experience a kitten or cat as a pet, they continue to live with them for evermore.

Dogs can take a bit more thinking in selection.  They tend to be more dependent on human interactions and can get under foot often.  Questions to ask yourself might include- Are there young children or babies involved; or very elder folks in the household.  Do you live in an apartment or in a home and are significant steps involved?  Do you feel a puppy is a better choice than a young or older adult dog?  How important is it to have is to have a purebred versus a classic Heinz 57 breed, and should you consider a rescue adoption rather than a pet shop or breeder source?  How does your selection impact your household expenses at the time of acquisition, and later as you introduce many, many potential husbandry and healthcare costs that may arise?  How much time can be afforded to the care and training of your new pet?  Do you want a small or large sized critter; one with short hair or long hair; one who can be a play companion, or one that has other potential roles like guarding or herding your kids?  These queries are critical for your consideration.  And, it would be a great time to visit with your veterinarian to ask his or her input.  Is your yard fenced off, or do you plan to implement an invisible fence device; and, don’t forget that your neighbors as well as your neighborhood indentures, or city and county regulations may impose restriction not otherwise considered?

It is time to select that lucky critter now?  Adopting a rescue dog or cat is the preferred approach in our humane sensitive culture, but understand that many animals end up in rescue for one reason or another.  There will be unknowns regardless of your sourcing.  And, do not forget about other humane organizations in most cities, along with an internet full of animals ready for adoption as can be found on sites like PetFinders, a national registry of available animals representing hundreds of groups, nationwide.  One good suggestion is to preview appropriate animals without kids included at the outset.  Typically, with kids present, the first animal you see is the one you end up taking home, regardless of the fact that other issues do not comply with our original selection criteria.

Welcome home!!!   You’re off and running.  Explain to very young children that your pet has legs, and they should be allowed to use them.  At first, partition your animals to one or more areas and immediately implement training house rules.  Remember that dog crates are not punishment, but rather, a viable means for husbandry management.  Keep feeding schedules on line.  Be patient, and understand that changes are dramatic to your pet as well as to your household.

Be consistent and loving, just as one manages children.  And, it is a good idea to keep a general diary of your pet’s behaviors, like appetite, urination and stool patterns.  Subtle points of information can prove useful in the event that illness presents, and you need to visit your veterinarian.

Be sure to understand that with any new pet, issues will arise, regardless of your due diligence and preparation.  Keep an open communication with your pet source, with other skilled animal service professionals, with your veterinarian and even with your Google pet blogs.  In the end your family will appreciate a loving, long term pet – owner relationship.

Good luck!!   www.clarksonwilsonvet.com