Family pets can really help make your family complete, whilst also teaching your children how to treat and take care of animals. Invaluable companions and fun playmates, they make the difference between a house and a home… But which pet is the best family pet for you?
Something to remember is that, even if a pet is your child’s, it will be your responsibility to care for it. Children, even teenagers, aren’t adults and putting them in charge of another life is jumping the gun. So if you’re unwilling to walk the dog every day or clean out the hamster cage on a regular basis, don’t get your children a pet. You’ll have to be prepared to take on the full care for the pet you choose, as you’re making a commitment for potentially decades of responsibility for that little life.
Rabbits are often chosen as a low-maintenance pet, but people don’t do enough research. They do best in pairs, and your best bet is to get a male-female pair. Having the male neutered is the cheapest way to prevent
costly litters of babies, but having the female spayed is also an option. These procedures can also prevent a variety of life-threatening conditions in the future and cut down on territorial fighting, so you can really benefit from shelling out the cash to have them performed, or from adopting a rabbit from a rescue, which will usually have the procedure performed and included in the adoption fee.
Something people often forget about rabbits is that they live quite long, and you could well find yourself committed to your rabbits for twenty years or more. They need regular veterinary care and if you let them free-roam then you will need to make sure they can’t chew on any wires. In terms of your children, they can enjoy stroking and snuggling the rabbits, but will need to learn how to pick them up correctly. Feeding and playtime can be fun, and if your child enjoys helping then cleaning out the cage or litter tray can be good practice for pet ownership when they’re older.
Dogs are of course a very popular choice, but daily walks are a necessity. Training dogs is of the essence, no matter how big or small the dog. Veterinary care bills can run high as you need annual vaccinations as well as sterilisation, and buying a purebred dog requires a lot of research to ensure you buy from a reputable breeder as well as a fair amount of money. You can mitigate these bills by adopting a rescue dog, but unfortunately you won’t get the reassurance of a well-researched and genetically tested pedigree.
Training the dog can be a family activity, and if you use positive-only training such as clicker training your older children will be able to grasp the concept well enough to help. Additionally, dogs are very likely to become a huge part of your family and will provide your child with immense companionship, but you will need to supervise the relationship closely to ensure your child treats the dog carefully. Additionally, if your dog ever develops aggression towards humans, you’ll have to carefully police their interactions.
Cats have often been seen as a low-maintenance option, and they can provide a more relaxed pet. However, despite the lack of walks and in-depth training needed, they do need a standard of care that is higher than most people realise. Indoor cats live, on average, three times longer than outdoor cats, but they need a litter tray which will need daily scooping and regular clean-outs. Cats need sterilisation and vaccinations, and again a purebred cat will cost a lot of time and money. They are also in need of attention and regular grooming.
For children, whether a cat is fun or not can be very hit or miss and depends on the cat’s temperament. That said, most house cats will be a wonderful snuggle buddy for children in the family as long as the children are taught how to handle them without hurting or frightening them. Daily feeding rituals can provide a lovely in-road to responsible pet ownership for your child.
Pets can be an amazing addition to your family, but you’ll want to make sure you choose the right pet for your family to ensure everyone enjoys your new pet as much as possible. Be ready to spend time and money on your pet, and be prepared to shoulder the responsibility for the animal when your children’s interest inevitably waxes and wanes with their mood.