Getting a family pet is one of those quick decisions you will make as a parent one day and immediately regret it the very next day. You’ll be the one who scoops the mounds of poo off the carpet, flushes the dead fish down the toilet, and digs the countless shallow graves in the backyard. Getting a pet means you will be the one doing all the heavy lifting, and no one will ever appreciate all your hard work. Not even the pet.
No parent ever willingly signs up for all the extra work that comes with owning a pet. God knows we have a lot on our plates! However, when the pet comes home, all the promises get thrown out the window, and you become the only person keeping yet another living thing alive and healthy.
That first talk
There is always that first talk where it is decided that a pet should be added to the family. The whole family might participate, or sometimes it’s just mom and dad who decide to buy a gift for a deserving child. Either way, a talk is always had.
If you know what I’m talking about here, you’re likely seriously considering getting a pet for one reason or another. Maybe it just feels right. Or all your kid’s friends have pets, too, and you don’t want him to be left out. Maybe you already own a pet and just want to add a second one, or you owned a pet that “went to the farm.”
Whatever your reasons are, I’m here to get in your face and let you know that you are not having that talk seriously enough. You may have some vague idea of what’s coming, but if you could really see the future, you would take things up a notch out of fear for the sake of your own sanity.
There are a few things you need to make sure everyone in the family understands. What pet are you getting? Who will be its caretaker? What responsibilities does this involve? Who does what and when do they do it? What happens if they don’t?
When everyone is in agreement about all these things, you can go ahead and get the pet. You just need to make sure that everything is absolutely clear to avoid any future misunderstandings. Arguing with your partner about a pet or having visible disdain towards the pet can affect how your children relate to it, which is definitely not a good thing.
Which pet should you get?
The number one thing you need to think about when deciding what pet to get is the family structure itself. Do you have a young baby? How old are the kids? What do they want?
Notice how the question here is not “What do you want,” but rather, “What do they want?” A family pet is not the parents’ pet. Only get something you want if you are prepared to fully take care of it alone.
When you get something your child wants, it brings out the best in them. It will make them more willing to care for it, and the fact that they might end up falling in love with it means that the pet will help them have a better understanding of intricate concepts in life, such as what love and sacrifice mean.
I did a quick Google search on how to pick the right pet for your family. The sheer number of guides is crazy, so just Google a bit and you will have more than enough info on what exact pet to get. Or, if opening a new tab to do that sounds like a lot of work, let me google that for you. 🙂
Here is where things get tricky. You’ve had the talk. Everyone has promised heaven on earth. But you know it’s all talk. Their words mean nothing. So what can you do?
Easy. Put it down on paper. Create a detailed list of cleaning, feeding, and care responsibilities and make your kid sign it. That way, the promise becomes harder to go back on.
If you have more than one child, you also want to create a duty roster and make them agree to it before the pet comes. This will help you avoid a lot of future conflicts.
I have to mention here that single-handedly taking care of a pet is a lot of work. If you have just one child, share the responsibilities with them. It will be a great opportunity to bond with your child, and your pet won’t hate you as much!
Once the duty roster has been created, put it up somewhere prominent, preferably somewhere they will see every morning. Do this several days before the pet comes. It’ll give them something to look forward to.
What if they do not follow the roster? What if they abandon their responsibilities and have you doing the dirty work?
Well, here is what you shouldn’t do: don’t nag and complain to the kids every time you have to do something. They understand what they are supposed to be doing, so treat them like the responsible humans they can be and have a talk with them about it.
If this still doesn’t work, add a little incentive to it. Make their pocket money be dependent on fulfilling their responsibilities. The best part is that monetizing the duty roster like this will give you a great opportunity to teach your kids about money.
Pet attacks and children
The family pet should never attack and injure the kids. Bites need to always be addressed. Keep in mind that the pet is still an animal above all else. This is why you should always supervise how your pet interacts with your child.
Pets should not attack their humans. Sometimes a pet might react to something the child did wrong, but this is not a valid argument for it. On your part, you need to make sure that your child understands the limits of what they can and cannot do to the pet, and how to behave around the pet.
You should also do a little research on your own and impart some of that wisdom to your kids. If you are getting a puppy, there are also special puppy training classes that you can sign your child up to.
In the end, are pets any good?
If you manage to select a pet that fits perfectly into your family fabric, and the entire family participates in taking good care of it, the benefits of owning a pet will far outweigh its disadvantages.
Great pets make every member of the family feel a little closer to each other. They make family trips fun and they help you learn so much more about yourself and your family.
So, do you have a family pet? I’d love to hear about what that’s like in the comments!