The Pet Question
Let's face it - we are all going to come up against the inevitable question: "Mum, Dad, can we get a (insert desired pet here)?!!" For me at present my daughter is desperate for a puppy. So, this article is as much for me as it is for you. It is a tricky question with so many different aspects to consider, from size and temperament of the animal, to how to care for and WHO will clean up all the mess? We will have a look here at all the things you need to take in to consideration before jumping into the lovely, furry/slimy/prickly fun that is a pet.
How can toys help?
It is funny actually how much your child's toys and how they interact with them, can tell you so much about how your child might love, care and respect a pet. Think back to when we were kids. It was all about the Tamagotchis and the Furbys. Meticulously caring for them so they made as little noise as possible and not annoy Mum! Nowadays you see that same interaction and care shown towards the next generation of toys.
Take the Baby Born for example. You need to feed the baby, take it to the potty so it can wee, change its nappy, make sure it sleeps and give your baby lots of cuddles. Another great example which is very relevant to this article, is the new Fur Real Poop A Lot range. The dogs and cats within this range have a stick leash, poop scoop and poop that you have to clean up as the pet goes. Perfect training tool right there! Cleaning up the poo will even look like tons of fun.
In terms of living things vs toys, what about combining the two? Bug catchers = toy + living thing. You will want to see your child carefully collect the bugs and insects, taking the utmost care to ensure they are not hurt and have oxygen, light and are not held captive (I mean studied) for a lengthy amount of time. Use this time to show your child how delicate all living things are. Let them observe the bugs and ask them questions about how they think they need to be looked after.
At this point it is a good time to test the water. We find we have many parents coming in and purchasing Aqua Dragons as a first introduction to caring for a living thing. They require specific water, food and sunlight so it is a very easy and mess free testing ground for your child and your family. Also look if your child loses interest over time as this is a very important factor moving forward as well. The extra sachets of eggs that you can purchase will encourage long term involvement and care. Again, that is a brilliant litmus test.
What's the situation at home?
First things first, how old is your child? If you do not currently own a pet and your children are under the age of 5, it might be worth holding off for the moment. Young children and toddlers cannot be responsible or handle the responsibility of caring for an animal. In addition to this the pet is at a much higher risk of being accidentally injured and/or the child can become startled easier. Generally, children from 5 years old + gradually start to show genuine interest in having a furry companion. But do not jump in too quickly. Watch and see if their interest wanes over time. If you see genuine, long term interest then it is time for serious consideration.
Is your child animal friendly?
Now this one is a big one. Is your child comfortable around animals? It is one thing to say "Mum I want a dog!" only to be scared of a Pomeranian walking past on a leash (true story). Your child has to be very comfortable around animals and expect them to jump up on them, lick them and generally be around. If your child is adamant they want a pet but not the jumpy, licky kind, then maybe a fish might be the way to go.
Another HUGE factor to consider: is your child respectful of animals? They need to have a maturity level that understands what appropriate behaviour is towards animals. Petting softly, not rolling all over and/or wrestling with them, not thinking it's funny to take their food off them or scaring them.
Other mentions ...
If you feel you, your child and family are moving forward in the pet direction, it is then time to start researching. How much space do you have at home? Are you looking for an indoor or outdoor pet? Who will clean up the messy stuff? Can you assign tasks to various family members?
We will leave all those questions to you! Good luck during your endeavour to answer THE Pet Question. I know I have learnt plenty whilst writing this article and am already encouraging my daughter to show us how responsible she is before we will look at it. And I have to say - it's working! Her toy dog Ricky has never been played with and cared for more.