If you are a parent with a young child, the idea of getting a pet might seem altogether too much work. A child alone is difficult enough to look after, right? You might think that if you add an energetic dog or cat into your family, you will not have a moment to yourself. While it is true that pets require care, love, and attention, that does not mean that they do not pay it all back several times over. The truth is that having a pet can be good for your child. Firstly, if you tell your child that the pet belongs to them and that they need to make sure that it is looked after, it can foster a sense of responsibility in your child that they will not be able to get as easily anywhere else. Making sure that their dog or cat (or whatever animal that they’d like) has enough food and water, and that they are cleaned up after is a great way to encourage your child to mature. Having a dog, in particular, can also help teach your child self-discipline and understanding. Puppies can be rather energetic and boisterous and learn to deal with that and training the dog until it starts to behave is an opportunity for your child to learn how to care for another. While your child may not always understand why the dog behaves in the way that it does, it is important to react with kindness and patience, two attributes that are important in adult life too. While it may seem rather sad, the fact is that dogs do not live forever and they too can fall ill and suffer as humans do. While it will always be upsetting, the natural cycle of life is something that your children have to learn about at some point, and it may be easier with a pet rather than a family member or friend. Having a pet can teach your child empathy. Also, perhaps the most obvious point is that pets are fun. Running around with a dog that you love may just be the best memories a lot of people have of their childhood.
However, it is not just in an emotional capacity that pets can help your children. They are great for getting both you and your children more fit. A study conducted in England in 2010 found that ‘children with a dog spent more time in light, moderate to vigorous, and vigorous physical activity and recorded more overall activity counts, counts per minute, and steps compared with non–dog owners’. Owning pets can also make your children healthier, especially in their first year of life. Research performed in Finland found that children whose parents’ had pets had fewer colds, ear infections, and needed fewer courses of antibiotics compared with children who grew up without pets at home. Not only that, a different study found that children who had a dog in the first year of their life were 13% less likely to develop asthma by the age of six compared to those without a dog. Lastly, a study from Cambridge University published earlier this year found that children get more satisfaction from their relationships with their pets than they do with their siblings. They also get on better with their pets than they do with their brothers or sisters. It seems, therefore, that if you want a healthier, happier, quieter household, you should get a pet.
Of course, there are disadvantages to getting a pet. For one, they cost money. Figures published by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggest that the average annual cost of having a dog is $1,270 and for a cat, it is $1,070. There are one-time, initial expenses that you have to pay for, such as training your dog, which is thought to cost about $110, or an initial medical exam for a cat which has an average price of $130. However, there are lots of other things that you have to buy as well. For instance, if you get a puppy, you may find that they tear up everything that they can find, whether it is your shoes, the sofa or your mail. This is a natural impulse, and it is their way to get a better understanding of their surroundings. However, it can obviously be quite inconvenient and expensive. One way of dealing with this is to get them things that you are happy for them to bite and tear up. The best dog toys for chewers can save you a lot of money in not having to replace lots of your possessions. Some dogs even try to chew the door frames in your house, which cost a lot of time and money to replace. Another difficult thing about having dogs and cats is that they may have worms or parasites. You should be aware of the bacteria Campylobacter which is quite prevalent in puppies and kittens and which can cause diarrhea in humans. Pets can also carry tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms, as well as more serious things like rabies. However, all of these things can be dealt with if you pay attention to your pet and know how to spot some of the signs. The fact is that there are about 78 million pet dogs and 85.8 million pet cats in the US, in 44% and 35% of households respectively. If they were as dangerous as they seem to be in isolation, they would not be nearly as popular.
Another of the things that you need to think about if you are going to get a pet for your children is how they can tie you down. Going on holiday necessitates that you take them with you or that you put them in a kennel. For their own reasons, neither of these options are particularly appealing. Getting a pet passport and having your pet injected with an identifiable microchip is a lot of work. Then again, lots of kennels have a bad reputation, and your pet may not understand your absence and think that you’ve abandoned them. However difficult it be may arranging things for your pet when you want to go away, the joy and fun they can bring you and your family the rest of the year round more than makes up for it.