Choosing the first family pet
You have been thinking about it for a while and now you're ready for the big step of getting a family pet, a new playmate for your child.
Welcoming a pet into the family, with a little one in the home, makes parents carefully about the possible risks. Most of all, however, there are the benefits which having a new family member can bring.
Which animal is most suitable? Can it hurt the little one? Is there a risk of catching a disease? All are legitimate concerns, which we will try to answer in few short lines.
The advantages for our children
First of all, it is important to know that it has been scientifically proven that growing up with a pet brings great benefits to children.
Living with a pet can, in fact, significantly reduce the risk of obesity because children will want to play with the animal and, therefore, be more active.
Having a dog makes children feel safer and more protected, whileanimals such as cats or rabbits help to socialise children and accept diversity right from the first years of their lives.
In addition, looking after a pet helps children develop a sense of responsibility as they have to perform simple chores such as:
- changing the water each day
- giving them their food
- brushing their coat
However, it is important not to ask your child to do too much! In fact, up to the age of about 10, few children are able to look after a pet on their own. It is you, therefore, who will have to actually take care of the new arrival. However, if you do it together with your child, you are helping them to become more responsible in carrying out their chores in a fun way.
In fact, your little one will learn, by copying what you do, how to take care of a family pet and, step by step, they will be able to do it on their own without help.
In the case of an only child, a pet will fill their days and you will soon see even the TV comes second to playing with their new furry little friend.
Which animal is best for children?
The type of animal you choose is extremely important and, in choosing, the character of our children must be considered so that we choose a pet which can adapt to the personalities of our children, and the family as a whole.
Let’s take a look at the most common family pets and which may be more ideal.
Puppies are the most common pets chosen for children. In fact, dogs are affectionate animals which never tire of playing with children and will give them love and attention as they grow, establishing a strong and important bond between them.
You should know, however, it is also the most demanding choice: a dog is not a toy and needs care and attention, as well as the right amount of room for it to be happy. Therefore, if you decided to bring a dog into the family, you must be ready to welcome and take care of it in the best way possible.
The best time to bring a puppy into the home is when they are around two months old, after they have been weaned from their mums; make sure the puppy is in contact with the children so it sees them as part of its family: this will strengthen their bond over time.
Is a small dog better?
Contrary to what one might think, large dogs are very attentive and affectionate with children, and are often a good choice, especially if you consider that the dog will be with you for many years and may accompany your children into their teens.
Nevertheless, if your child is still very small, remember to always be present when they are playing together. Even the most careful dog can, at times, can give a little one a fright!
Which breeds are best?
There are a few breeds which are more recommended than others, such as:
- Boxer (I can just imagine the confused look on your face, but Boxers love kids)
- Golden Retriever
- Border Collie
Or if you prefer a small breed of dog, here are a few recommendations:
- Miniature Poodle
- Miniature Dachshund
In general, we recommend you always consult a veterinarian as they will know best how to advise you in making the right choice for you, based on your child’s age, the size of your home and your routines.
Consider, however, especially if the child is a bit older, the possibility of taking home a rescue dog from a dog kennel. It will be a highly rewarding experience for both you and your children. You will also discover that it is often the dog who chooses you and you will never regret it.
Cats are really sweet and affectionate animals, but they are also independent and much easier to manage than a dog. All they require is food and, if they are house cats, their litter to be cleaned and changed. Therefore, if you have little time available to look after a pet, and you do not feel a dog is right for you, a cat is a safe choice.
And if you have high-spirited children which could frighten it? Don’t worry, cats are perfectly able to understand when it is best to “disappear” for a short time, perhaps by going outside or hiding under the bed or in a quiet corner of the house. When your child is calm and relaxed on the sofa, it will reappear for a few cuddles in exchange for a symphony of purring.
Which breeds of cat are best?
Unlike dogs, there is no one breed of cat which is more suitable than others, however you should know that each cat has its own personality and, whatever the breed, you may find one cat which loves to be held while the next cat starts to wriggle free as soon as you pick it up.
There are a few breeds which really do love being picked up and cuddled, such as the Burmese or Rag Doll.
When to get a cat?
It is important that the kitten has been completely weaned from their mum, therefore it is best to leave it with its natural mother until it is 2 months old. This way you know that it has learned everything it needs to be with you and, above all, its mum and siblings will have taught it to play games using its teeth and claws without causing injury.
As with dogs, consider taking home a rescue cat from a cattery. Sometimes, all it requires is to contact the various animal associations in your area. They will know how to advise and support you during your first few months of living together.
Rabbit, hamster or guinea pig
And what about really small animals? Many families choose a hamster, a dwarf rabbit or a guinea pig as a family pet.
If you are not interested in a dog or a cat, you might consider one of these small, sweet animals from the rodent family!
These are pets which adapt really well to living in apartments. As well as being really cute, they are undemanding and require little daily management. Simply make sure their crate is clean, and they have water and food.
But be careful! Each of these friendly little animals also has some negative aspects.
Hamsters are nocturnal, meaning they make noise at night, above all on their wheel. Therefore, a hamster is not recommended if you are unable to isolate the noise.
these are highly intelligent and sociable animals, but they are still rodents who like to chew. Care must be taken to cover electrical wires, remote controls and other objects, otherwise your home could soon look like a battlefield!
In addition, it must be remembered that rabbits do not like to be grabbed and lifted, and have a tendency to bite if frightened, so are not recommended as pets for high-spirited children.
Of all the animals, the most suitable for life with a child is certainly the guinea pig, a very calm and docile little mammal.
They bring together the personalities of the hamster and rabbit, however they are much easier to manage and, best of all, hardly ever bite (as long as they don’t feel they are in danger).
Important: remember that predators and prey must never be kept in the same home. If you already have a cat or a dog, avoid getting a guinea pig, hamster or rabbit, as they are unlikely to feel safe and happy.
Turtles, Fish or Birds
If you have very little time available but still want your child to have a little friend, you could consider getting a turtle or tortoise, a fish aquarium or even a bird (canaries or small parrots).
Of course, there is less work involved, but it will also have less interaction with your child; in fact, these are not really house pets. These animals do, however, make a good solution for children who are hyperactive.
In fact, these animals should be observed calmly and with interest. For this reason they are a good solution for those who are always agitated and in a rush, as it can teach them to spend the time observing their characteristics and their behaviours.
In conclusion, the desire to grow your family by adopting a pet is an excellent choice. However, you should keep a few things in mind, such as never leave a child alone when playing with a pet, at least for the first few months. If your child is old enough, you can decide together what the rules are for playing well together and sharing your home.
You will then see that with a little commitment and love (from you and your child), you child will have a friend who will give them everything and more!