The Bottom Line About Pets
by Sally Burgess, Forefront Families LLC
I wonder how many children got a puppy or kitten this Christmas? I bet they were excited. I love animals. There is nothing like a faithful cat or dog to sooth stress, to be of comfort and to be great company for family members. Most kids want a pet. It could be any shape and any size such as a fish, a dog, a cat, a bird, a hamster, a snake or a ferret.
Because of my partiality to animals, I worry when I see parents give in to their kids' pleading without always asking the important questions. Is it practical to have this pet? Can we afford to buy it? Can we afford to feed it? Can we afford veterinary care and vaccinations? Have we got enough room? How much attention and exercise does THIS pet need? Will our child/children take responsibility for it? Who will look after it when we go on vacation? Is it a pet all family members will appreciate? (Some pets pervade the whole household e.g. dogs, while others are confined e.g. fish or turtles.) What is the lifespan of the pet? (Some large hooked beaked birds, for example may well outlive their owners!) When the kids leave home, will the pet go with them? When the kids get tired of looking after their pet, do I/we want to take responsibility for it? Could the pet be dangerous?
I have a friend whose kids were always bringing home pets. One son decided he wanted a python. He brought it home and put it in a big fish tank in his bedroom. There it stayed, hibernating for long periods. One night it woke from its long slumber and escaped from the fish tank to find water. It slithered into the bathroom where it wrapped itself around the commode and stuck its head in the bowl for a long drink. Along came father to make a late night pit stop. Fortunately, he turned the light on. One look at the snake and his hair stood on end! He bolted into to his son's room, dragged him out of bed and made him retrieve his pet. Needless to say the snake went to a new home at the zoo the very next day!
Animals bring a unique richness to families who love and care for them. They are a wonderful way to teach kids to be gentle, loving and kind. However, when kids are rough and tease animals, the animal will retaliate to protect itself. It will then be labeled as bad tempered and often be shunned by the family. When adults don' t have a natural affinity towards animals, they may not notice when their pet is in discomfort or fearful through being roughly handled by a child. An inherited pet is often ignored and seen as a nuisance and another expense to have to deal with.
Speaking of being humane to animals brings me to talk about insects and tadpoles. Many a poor little grasshopper, worm, or tadpole has died in a glass jar in some child's bedroom. It is great for kids to study these precious little creatures up close, but they need to learn that all living things will only survive in their natural environment where they can feed and water themselves. While captured, they need to be treated with respect and that includes feeding and watering them. They deserve to stay alive. Encourage your kids to catch an insect or tadpole and study it up close but ensure it is returned to its natural environment within 24 hours..
Here are some suggestions regarding care of pets. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE PET! An animal deserves to live a long and happy life just like its owner. Before getting a pet it is important to realistically ask the questions posed above. If parents do not want to end up with the responsibility of a pet, then don't allow the kids to have one. Many pets end up at the Humane Society because kids have 'outgrown' them and that may well mean a tragic end for the pet. Dogs need to be loved and disciplined just like kids do. Kids need to be taught the responsibilities of looking after pets. Pets have no voice. They rely on us for love, comfort and care.
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