One of my family’s New Year’s Resolution is to add a pet to our home in 2019. We’ve never had pets before and are unsure about immediately adding a dog or a cat. Can you give us any advice on how to go about dipping our toes into the world of pet ownership?
Considering a Pet in Timbergrove
Dear Considering a Pet,
Owning a pet is a big responsibility — even if it’s just a fish. Pets require (at a minimum) regular feedings, attention, baths or cage/tank cleanings, someone to care for them when you’re out of town…the list goes on and on. It’s not a decision to make flippantly and I applaud you for pausing to do some thinking on the topic before diving in. Here are a few things to consider:
Getting the kids on board
Kids are usually the first ones in the family to warm up to the idea of getting a pet, but having children in the home might change the type of pet you end up with.
“The first thing that you need to think of is if your children are old enough and responsible enough to handle a pet around the house,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, Clinical Associate Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “You also need to be aware of the temperament of the new pet that you’re bringing in.”
Low maintenance animals, such as hamsters and fish, prove to be great starter pets for children. They require minimal amounts of time and care, introducing the child to the responsibilities of pet ownership without giving them more than they can manage.
Another point of contention is allergies. Do you or anyone in your home suffer from allergies that might be made worse by the introduction of a furry friend? If so, maybe it’s a good idea to consider a reptile, fish or even a hypoallergenic breed, such as a poodle, Schnauzer or Yorkie. There is even evidence to support that infants exposed to animals (like pets) earlier in life are less likely to develop allergies later on.
Speculating on a snake:
If you or your kids are dead-set on a snake consider what Dr. Stickney has to say on the subject.
“With animals like lizards and snakes, their care and feeding requirements can be a bit tricky as far as humidity, temperature, etc.,” Stickney said. “These animals also eat other animals for food, which may be upsetting to some children. Depending on their age and maturity, that might be something beyond a child’s ability to handle.” Gulp. Duly noted.
Here’s the good news!
According to Dr. Stickney, research has shown numerous health benefits of owning a pet, including lower blood pressure and elevated mood. There is even evidence to support that interaction between pets and children with disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome or Autism, is extremely beneficial. “The key is that you need to have a nice, docile pet,” Stickney said. “One that isn’t too active or rough, but that just wants to be loved on and to love right back.”
As always, if you’ve decided to bring a pet into the family, please consider adopting before buying. Even for small animals, such as hamster and guinea pigs, check the ASPCA or Humane Society first, as they often have small animals available for adoption in addition to dogs and cats.
Do you have a question for Tabby? If so, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pet of the Week
This handsome fellow is about 2 years old and was found as a stray in Oak Forest not long after Hurricane Harvey. Cash gets along with other dogs (after a proper introduction, of course), and is healthy, happy, and ready to start anew in 2019. While Cash would love a forever home, for now, he’d be just as happy with a foster parent to take him in and show him how great living with a family can be. Are you game? If so, contact Scout’s Honor rescue at: www.scoutshonor.org.