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December 11, 2017

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A new pet for the holidays? 4 factors to help you know if you’re ready!

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

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With the holidays quickly approaching, many children are busily making their holiday wish lists. In addition to asking for the coolest new toys, bikes, video games, many kids are also putting a new pet on the list, too. A new pet can be a wonderful way to help teach responsibility and care while bringing extra love and joy into your household. But not all children or families are truly ready for the commitment that it takes to have a new addition in the house. Is your family ready?

Time

Do you and your family have time for a pet? If your family is anything like mine, we are super busy and often times running in a million different directions. Whether its soccer practice, scouts, wrestling, working late, volunteering, going to the gym, or other after-school activities, we all have a lot going on. If you do want a pet to join your family, determine how much time you have to take care of one. Just because you are busy or gone a lot of weekends doesn’t mean you can’t have a pet.  With a busy schedule, maybe a lower-maintenance pet, like fish, would better suit your current lifestyle.

Responsibility

Pets can teach your child (or even us adults) a lot about responsibility, but it also takes a lot of care to keep them healthy and happy. Not everyone is ready for that responsibility. To see if your children are truly ready, start by assigning them chores to do around the house. If they can handle these duties without complaining and without being constantly reminded, they may be able to take on the extra responsibility of a pet. Caring for a pet takes more than just a few days or a few weeks. Bringing a pet into your family means that you will care for it from puppy or kitten stage into its mature years. Realize that having a pet is often a 10+ year commitment.

Effort

Realistically, even if you have the most dedicated children, there will be at least some times when they can’t feed the cat or walk the dog. School schedules and sleepovers may affect your kids’ ability to care for a pet. Therefore, you may have to pick up the slack and help. But do you have time?

Are you able to help out, if needed? Will you clean out that litter box or take that long evening walk if your children aren’t able to do so? Keep in mind that although a new pet may be your child’s idea, the pet will be a part of the family. Caring for this pet will require effort from the entire family.

Practice!

See if you can borrow a grandparent’s dog or cat for a week. Ask your friend to loan you his pet for the weekend. By “testing the waters” first, you and your children will better understand the daily care requirements for a pet.  It’s not all cuddles and love.

You may be surprised at how dedicated and attentive your children are to their “loaner” pet. On the other hand, your children may dislike the walking, the feeding, the litter box cleaning or the yard cleanup that comes with having a pet.  Either way, borrowing a pet helps you determine whether or not your family is ready for a pet without making a major investment.

Getting a new pet, whether it has fur, feathers, or scales, can be an exciting time for any family. Making sure that everyone is truly ready for the commitment is essential. Maybe this holiday season is the right time for your family to add an amazing pet! On the other hand, maybe it’s best to wait until everyone is ready for all the responsibility, love, and slobbery kisses that lie ahead.  Assessing the situation properly will help ensure that when you do add that new pet, you will truly be ready to enjoy all aspects of caring for your newest family member.

Dr. Heintz and her dog, Mimi

Dr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.
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