With COVID-19 keeping people at home, many people are considering bringing a new pet into the household. Pets can provide so many benefits for children and families:
- reduced levels of anxiety and depression
- the opportunity to teach children about responsibility
- increased exercise and time spent outdoors
- a decreased risk of developing asthma and certain allergies (when children are raised from a young age with a furry pet in the house)
- some studies even suggest the pet ownership can lead to a longer and overall healthier life!
But even with all these potential benefits of having a pet in the home, there are still several questions to consider:
- First and foremost, how much time and energy can your family devote to a pet? I tell people to expect to spend at least twice as much time caring for your pet as you initially think. Likewise, the expense of a pet has to be taken into account. There is the initial cost of purchasing a pet plus all the items that go into caring for a pet and the ongoing cost of food and visits to the vet.
- How much time will your family be home once we return to “normal” life? Dogs generally require daily exercise and attention versus a smaller caged pet like a gerbil or guinea pig that just needs some fresh food and water each day.
- Think about your child’s age and developmental level- can your child be gentle with a fragile pet? Will your child be able to get along with a pet that can freely roam the house?
- How much responsibility would you like your child to have in caring for your new pet, and is your child willing to meet those expectations?
- Who will provide care for your pet when your family is traveling and away from home?
- Does anyone in your family have animal allergies?
- How will you find your family pet? Adopting a dog or cat from a shelter can be a great option, but be sure the animal has had a behavioral screening to ensure it’s suitable for children.
As a dog owner myself, I am a big proponent of family pets. While there are questions to consider, I really do believe that pets are a true blessing and create so much positive energy in a home. I am currently “negotiating” with my husband and daughter to bring a second dog into our home. I just need to make sure they are willing to help out with our new pet, even when it’s 0 degrees outside and someone needs to walk the dog!