Maybe you’re thinking of getting a puppy, kitten or rescue animal for Christmas. Just imagine what a surprise that would be under the tree!
Sooner or later, most kids start to pester their parents for a pet and if you’ve decided yours are now old enough for the responsibility, then what better way to liven up the holidays? Before you start thinking about how to wrap a ribbon round a wriggly pooch or cat though, take a minute to consider how to make your new family member feel at home.
The obvious first step is to determine what kind of pet best suits your family. If you’re sure allergies won’t be an issue, look at the ages of your children, how often you’re all at home, as well as what type of house you’re in. If it’s small flat, doesn’t have a garden or isn’t near a spacious place to walk, it’s probably best not to get a big dog. A cat might be easier, but will you let it out to roam the neighbourhood?
The breed of animal is important, too, as some dogs in particular tend to be better with children than others. For instance, you might think a Jack Russell terrier is going to fit the bill, but they’re not always the most child-friendly dogs, just as fluffy Maine Coon cats are known as generally patient and cuddly with kids. Whatever the pet, it should be tolerant and sociable and not skittish around loud, unpredictable children.
Have you budgeted in the cost of adding a pet to the home? Apart from the initial investments of bowls, bedding, leads and other supplies, there will be food, vet and vaccination bills, as well as the cost of having it kept in kennels if you’re away and have no one to care for it. Again, certain breeds may be less prone to some ailments, and it also depends on things like how much time the animal will be spending outdoors or with other animals. Also, have you looked into pet health insurance?
That’s not meant to suggest introducing a pet is a bad idea. Personally, I don’t know where we’d be without our loveable, supremely child-tolerant black Lab, and I had many before him when I was growing up. Pets teach children empathy, responsibility and how to be caring and kind. They’re a great motivator for getting outside and being active, and make for good company and an understanding companion.
Especially if you let your kids help to choose things like toys and a place for your cat or dog to sleep, they’ll feel involved and invested in their new friend’s well-being. Talk together about how to care for and handle your new pet, as well as safety issues, such as where to go for walks and what to do if your pet encounters another animal.
Rescue dogs and cats or older animals may need special attention, and it’s important to fully understand those issues before bringing an animal home. By the same token, sometimes a slightly less energetic pet can help families get used to caring for an animal without the madness of house training, obedience and all the enthusiasm a bouncing puppy or kitten brings to a new home. They’re fun and cute but, boy, they can be a lot of work!
Lastly, be sure you’ll be able to abide by the well-known saying that a dog (or cat or rabbit or whatever) is for life, not just for Christmas. Maybe you can give a pooch a nice warm home over the holidays, but will someone be there to look after it when the house gets hot and stuffy and everyone’s at work or school? Are you committed to a good few years of love, affection and care? Chances are you’ve thought all these things through before scooping up the cutest furball that comes your way, but a little reminder doesn’t hurt.
Happy holidays and happy pet-homing!