No matter what your circumstances, bringing a pet into your home should be a considered process. However, when tiny ones are involved – or about to be involved – then it’s important to think through a few things in particular.
You have a toddler, and you’re thinking about a pet
A pet is a wonderful way for your child to learn the importance of sharing, and having responsibility for some ‘one’ else.
How to find the right fur family member
The first thing to think about is your circumstances. Do you live in an apartment with limited space, or do you have plenty of room both outside and in? Will the pet sleep inside or outside? Will it be an inside or outside only pet?
Your actual lifestyle should also influence what pet comes into your life. If you’re active and go for lots of walks or runs, then obviously the type of pet you’re after will be very different than if, for example, you’re at work a lot and you don’t have time for a lot of recreational sport.
Breeds are also important. There are some stand-out breeds of cats and dogs that are perfect for children or families, and other breeds that are best left away from interaction with little ones. Speaking to your local vet or animal shelter is an excellent way to get guidance on this and remember, pets can come in more shapes and sizes than just cats and dogs!
Budget is also important, and not just the initial cost of the pet. Pedigree breeds will of course cost a lot more than, for example, a shelter animal or indeed the neighbours who’s pet has just had a litter. It’s up to you to then organise and pay for additional expenses such as council registration, vaccinations and ongoing costs like worm and flu treatment, food, kitty litter if you choose an indoor cat, toys, vet checks etc. Also check to find out about health conditions that might be particularly prevalent in the type of pet you’re considering.
If appropriate, involve your child in the decision-making and selection of your pet, as this will really help the child feel a sense of connection. Certainly allowing your child to name the pet would be a real excitement for them.
Settling a pet into your home
Once your pet arrives, it’s important your child gives it time to relax into the new surrounds. There is every chance the pet will be terrified at first, as it’s either just left its mum and siblings, or familiar surrounds.
Teaching your child how to ‘read’ a pet’s behaviour, how to know when a pet might be upset or scared or ready to react, is very important in helping the two form a special bond.
Giving your child certain responsibilities, such as feeding or grooming or tending to kitty litter, is a great way for them to start to learn about chores and the importance of looking after others.
All of us who had pets as children remember how important they were in our little lives – a fur family member can be a very special chapter for childhood. Enjoy!
You have a pet, and a baby will be on its way soon
Depending on the pet, your fur friend could consider the arrival of another baby into the household as something of no significance at all; or something that causes havoc in their little animal world.
Never leave a baby or child alone with a pet, no matter what the size or species and no matter how placid the animal may be.
Your affection and care of course will change priorities when your baby arrives, but if you can find time for the occasional play, or treat for your fur friend, then it will make the adjustment that much easier for them.
Visit www.pets.dpi.vic.gov.au for more information.