The Kids and the Furry: Time for a Pet?

If your family doesn't already have a furry friend - or your kids don't get along with the pet - then the time may come when they start begging for a cat, dog, snake...who knows? Be prepared to field their requests by assessing first whether or not your family is ready to take on the responsibility of owning a pet. First, figure out who the pet will belong to - will it be the entire family's responsibility, solely your child's responsibility or will it be your responsibility as mom to take care of? If your child will share in the responsibility, then decide if he is ready. Has he been talking nonstop about having a pet, or has he simply mentioned the idea once or twice? If he's been making frequent requests for a pet over a long period of time, then it may not be a passing fancy - the desire for a pet is definitely there, if you're sick and tired of hearing the requests. Examine how your child treats his toys. Does he break them without remorse or guilt or treat them roughly? Mishandling toys might mean he would treat an animal the same way. If he doesn't put toys away, does he understand that they may pose a health hazard to an animal, or that an animal could chew them?

Putting toys away promptly and in the right place indicates a level of responsibility that may be conducive to owning a pet. Does your child complete chores willingly and without a lot of nagging from you? If not, then he may not be ready to take on the responsibility of feeding, housebreaking, grooming or walking a pet. Make sure your child has spent time around the type of pet you're considering and understands the pet's needs. Decide who will be responsible for each of the animal's needs before the animal comes home, and decide on consequences if those needs aren't met. If the child consistently slacks on feeding the dog, for example, what will his punishment be? Finally, ensure that the family's finances will allow for vet bills, pet insurance, grooming and the daily costs of having a pet. Realize that despite moving, new babies or other life changes, the pet is yours for the long haul.