Should young children have pets? – Part 2

I have three children. They are 8, 7, and 4. We do have a house full of pets. I will briefly explain how we came upon our four legged family members. We started with three cats. They were all “pound babies”. I can’t honestly say they were for my children. My Husband and I love cats and just couldn’t stop at one. Then my oldest son decided he wanted a dog. I spoke to our local veterinarian, and lived on-line researching dog breeds. My husband was for a small dog and to be honest I wanted a larger breed. I was torn between a Golden and a Lab. We talked it over with our children and son; who swore he would feed, walk, play, and clean up after him. The next week we met with a breeder and brought home Baron. Baron is now two years old and 100 pounds. He is all baby! My son does not walk him, forgets to feed him, and whines when he has to scoop poop. However, he has kept his promise on playing with him.

Then at the age of 6 my Daughter started her first debate. Her brother had a pet and she didn’t. Of course I knew if I fell into this trap where I would be down the road…and with one more child to go. So after hearing the same story, I will feed it, play with it, and clean up after it, we ended up with a one eyed Hamster. Why the one eye? Well she was in the back of the pet store “hoping” someone would pick her because she was not able to be put out front with the other “normal” hamsters. So she came home with us. Of course my Daughter did keep her word for the first few months with my assistance and then the new wore off. She does feed her when she remembers and always plays with her but that is the extent.

Shortly after the hamster moved in, my son was playing with his dog, my daughter was playing with her hamster, and my youngest, “had nothing to play with”. So off to the pet store we went. Luckily, his love for fish came through and we brought home one goldfish. My Husband was thrilled! It didn’t make noise or get out of it’s cage. My son does play with the fish and feed it…most of the time to much.

So where am I going with this story? This is my answer to, “should young children have pets?”

I think at a certain age having a pet is a great experience for children as long as the parent is ready for the responsibility. I have heard the wonderful words, “If you don’t take care of it it’s going back”. It is unrealistic for a young child to properly care for a pet without adult supervision. Not to mention devastating if the pet was taken away. My four year old can’t cross the road without holding my hand, I can’t possibly expect him to take care of a goldfish without my help. But let me tell you the benefits of helping a child care for the animal through my own eyes. It helps to form responsibility, but not overnight. My children and I work together to clean cages and care for the pet. My children also do chores around the house to earn money so they can buy extra toys and treats for their pets. Caring for a pet builds compassion, by taking care of something smaller and more helpless than they are. It builds relationship and communication skills. All of my children talk to their pets, share stories, and play games with them. They also love going to the library and getting books about their pets.

So am I crazy? Yes, I clean up after a 100 pound Golden retriever, three cats, a hamster, and a goldfish. But what we (my kids and I) learn from the experience is well worth it. My children will always have a respect for animals that they learned and continue to learn at a young age.

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