Good pets for babies

Infants and toddlers are much too young to be given any responsibility regarding pet care. At that tenderage, a child’s attachment to a pet would be purely emotional. Therefore, the choice of a pet would rely on its reputation for interacting with young children. Pets that are generally reputed to be aggressive are not capable or patient enough to deal with a child who would want to play or squeeze or bite. I would suggest, if the parents decide to buy a family pet while a young child is in the house, to consider a medium- to large-sized dog known for its tolerance and patience with the potential annoyances a baby can be. Retrievers and labs are both reputed to be gentle animals.

Of course, before buying any kind of pet or introducing any new animal to your baby, you must first be confident in the individual animal’s personality and tolerance. Although retrievers and labs are generally known to be gentle, there are exceptions, and the same is true for the more aggressive breeds. The most gentle animal I’ve ever come in contact with was a domesticated wolf. This creature, though still a wild animal, acted as a surrogate mother to a litter of five-week-old kittens within the first few months of being owned by a friend of mine. Years later, when my friend had her daughter, the wolf (Ranger) became extremely aggitated if the baby was left alone in a room or upset. Ranger took up the habit of sleeping on the floor next to the baby’s crib every night. Wolves are not generally good animals to have around infants, but this wolf was an exception.

Believe it or not, I have found that another relatively calm, docile animal is a snake. This would be a relatively convenient animal because it would mostly be in a securely closed cage, out of an infant’s reach, and the parents can supervise any interaction with the animal. As for care of the pet, snakes are relatively low maintenance and have surprisingly long life spans, so it could turn into an animal that a child can bond with as he or she grows. Again, certain types of snakes have reputations regarding temperament, but again, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, I own a reticulated python, widely accepted as the largest snake in the world, and reputed to have an aggressive temperament that rivals that of the anaconda. However, my python, Sabre, is an exception to that rule. I have owned him since he was three months old and just under two feet long. Now, he is about a year and a half old, and well over seven feet long. By the time he is six years old, he will have the strength to strangle a human being to death, yet will still only be an adolescent.

However, Sabre has never shown any signs of aggression. He is not easily aggitated (a trait more common in males than females) and is slow-moving. He is naturally curious and extremely gentle. I now take him to elementary schools to educate young children about respect for animals. The fast movements and loud noises that children often make don’t phase him in the least, and he calmly tolerates their touching and poking. Because of the way he reacts to his environment, I would have no problem allowing a very small child to interact with him under supervision.

In the end, it is up to the parent to decide.

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