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Bringing Home a Family Pet

Is your family thinking of picking a puppy, falling for a ferret, or caring for a cat? Or maybe you’re more of a hamster kind of home? Many families consider getting a pet at some point, and most kids love animals. In fact, having a family pet can teach many important lessons – your child can learn compassion and respect for living creatures and depending on your child’s age can also help to care for your new family member. And don’t forget that having a family pet can be a whole lot of fun! You might be wondering if your family is ready to welcome an animal into your home – how to choose, and what about the work involved? These are just some of the things to consider before your bring home your new friend.

What type of pet you will adopt depends on your personal preference, as well as on the space you have available, and your family lifestyle. If you love being active outdoors, a dog might make a great companion, but if your family schedule is busy, consider a more independent pet like a cat – or two! Also keep in mind the ages of your children. While critters like hamsters, guinea pigs and rats can be great for older kids; young children may not yet able to understand that small rodents might bite if not handled gently. A dog may be the perfect friend for a school- aged kid or teen. While puppies and kittens can be lots of fun, they also require more care and training. Many Manitoba animal shelters are overflowing with adult animals that need homes through no fault theirs. Many families find that a calmer, older animal that has been around children makes a smoother transition into the family.

If you do choose to add a dog to your family, ensure that your children and the dog are never alone, even if the dog is known to be friendly with children. Sometimes the sudden actions and noises of a young child can be overly exciting to a dog, or your child may inadvertently hurt the dog, causing him to react. If you have a baby, take extra care not to allow the dog to be alone with the baby, and avoid letting the dog sleep in the same room as your children. Regardless of the type of animal you choose, remember that your children will need guidance and helping caring for your new pet. Even if your child wants to take on some of the responsibility, you may still need to assist with the chores at first to show your child how to complete them correctly. And, as many parents have found out, remember that if the enthusiasm for the new pet eventually drops off, you may end up being the one doing all the care and cleaning.

It is also important to seriously consider the financial responsibility that comes with a pet. Some of the costs include food and supplies, which will vary depending on the type of animal you adopt. You also need to consider if your pet will need training, and fees for kenneling if you are away. Veterinary costs for cats, dogs and rabbits can be substantial, even for routine care like vaccinations, or for spaying or neutering.

The Winnipeg Humane Society recommends that pets be spayed or neutered anytime after the age of four months. To read about the Winnipeg Humane Society’s Spay and Neuter Assistance, click here: SNAP. According to the City of Winnipeg Responsible Pet Ownership By-law, all dogs over the age of six months must be licensed. Click here to read more: Dog Licensing.

You can ask your friends or vets in your area questions to get an idea of the typical cost for care. Although it can be tempting to be optimistic, consider how difficult it could be if the unthinkable happened, and your family could not afford the care your pet needed or the heartbreak if you had to give your pet away.

Before deciding to make the leap into pet ownership, you can also explore ways in which your family can take on the responsibility on a temporary basis. This might mean volunteering at an animal shelter or the humane society, fostering an animal or even pet-sitting for a friend or a neighbor. This can allow you to get a better sense as to whether a pet will fit into your life right now.

Try to avoid giving pets as gifts, especially during the holidays. These times can be busy and overwhelming already, and this can make for a difficult transition for both the pet and the people. Resist the temptation to bring a bunny home at Easter, as well. Rabbits can be great pets for older kids and teens, but are not well suited to homes with young children. And, animal shelters are often filled with bunnies that are returned after the season passes.

Pets can bring a whole new dimension of fun into your family, but they come with responsibilities, too. So whether you decide on a dog, a cat, a lizard or a critter, make sure your family takes the time to make a thoughtful and informed decision to bring a new pet home.

More information on bringing home a pet:

Winnipeg Humane Society: Kids and Dogs – The Winnipeg Humane Society offer great tips for ensuring your family is ready for a dog, as well as helping with a smooth transition. If you’re considering bringing a dog or a puppy into your family, this article is a must-read!

Canadian Pediatric Society Caring for Kids: Pet Safety: Tips for Bringing a Pet into Your Home – The Canadian Pediatric Society wants to help you understand the realities of bringing a pet home, as well as the importance of picking a healthy pet, and teaching your children to play with animals gently and respectfully.