Monday, October 24, 2011

Consideration when choosing a family pet

You and your spouse have been discussing it, and have come to the conclusion that you are both ready to take the plunge. It’s time to bring an addition into your family—a pet!

Whether it’s just you and your spouse or if you have children, getting a pet should not be a decision that’s made on the spur of the moment. Putting great thought into it, before making any final decisions, will be seriously beneficial to everyone in the long run.

How do I know this, you might ask? Experience. My family and I have brought in numerous pets over the years without putting appropriate thought into it beforehand. We’ve made mistakes. But, perhaps sharing our mistakes will help you to find your perfect family pet.

Some may say, "If it’s in a cage or a bowl, there’s not really anything to think about. I mean, how much trouble could a pet of this nature possibly be?"

For one, if you have small children it may be more challenging than you think. About 13 years ago, my husband and I along with our son, Chance, returned with a small gold fish we had won by tossing ping pong balls into fishbowls. Simple enough, right? A little fish food, a bowl—which we didn’t even have—and presto! Perfect caretakers. Chance, at first, wanted to take the fish out of the "fish mug," which we were keeping it in so he could play with it. He didn’t understand that it had to stay in water. "Bath?" he’d ask, assuming the fish had to stay in the water. So, we obliged the young tot and confirmed to him that, yes, the fish was taking a bath.

After having the fish about a week, I came through the living room one evening and noticed a bath towel up on one of the shelves in the living room. I picked up the towel and let out a gasp. The bath towel had soaked up all of the water in the fish’s mug. I can only assume that Chance had decided the fish was done taking a bath. What did Mommy do when it was time for Chance to get out of his bath? I dried him off with a bath towel. I’m sure to him it made perfect sense.

Services were held later that evening over the toilet bowl, just before bath time.

Our first mistake and one that you and your spouse need to discuss as soon as a new pet is introduced into the family is: Do we have the proper resources to care for this new family addition? And, are we ready to educate ourselves and our children on how to properly care for the new pet? The first thing you should do is look up the animal on the internet and do some reading. Go down to your local pet shop and ask questions. All life should be loved and nurtured, no matter how small and it’s going to require some effort from everyone in the house. If you have any doubt then it’s probably going to be a negative experience and one that will have you and your spouse sitting in your child’s room "explaining" some things.

With that said, here are a couple more do’s and don’ts that will help you along the way.

Don’t become the town breeder.Back when I was in high school, I purchased a female and a male hamster. I quickly became the hamster breeder for the local pet shop. My female hamster had 10-15 babies at a time, and since the gestation period is very short, we had a lot of baby hamsters over a two-year period. I traded the hamster babies at the pet shop in town for more food and bedding for the next brood of babies. Looking back, why I didn’t simply separate the male and female is very perplexing.

The lesson here is that although it’s a nice thought to be able to provide a companion for your caged pet, be sure you don’t inadvertently become the town breeder. Also, keep in mind that with a cage comes cage cleaning. If you are unable to maintain the needed upkeep, consider other options that may better suite your family.

Do educate yourself and your family on the types of illnesses the animal may be prone to and what the symptoms are.When the boys were young, we had a pet rabbit, briefly. It was a dwarf rabbit and was very sweet. Unfortunately, the rabbit was sick when we got it and passed on shortly after. Because we had not educated ourselves on this animal before we brought it home, including the types of illnesses that they are prone to, and what the symptoms of these illnesses were, we did not even realize that the rabbit was ill. We simply thought it was very "friendly, gentle and calm," as we were told.

Owning and caring for a pet is a lot of responsibility and it's important for the entire family to understand and feel that responsibility. When you, your spouse and kid(s) are all aware of the care and needs of your pet, that animal will return the favor by supplying you with years of happiness—or chewed up furniture.

Published by Hitched Magazine October 2011

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