They’re the words that every parent dreads. As soon as their little ones reach a certain age they can expect to hear the dread cry of “Hey Mom, can I get a pet?”. It’s an innocent enough question, but one which can invoke a chain reaction of mental images. Of a carpet that’s constantly adorned with a fine layer of fur, no matter how much you vacuum it. Of coming home to the pungent odor of a full litter tray or of kitchen flooring perpetually draped with newspaper as your new puppy learns (way too slowly) that going in the house isn’t the best idea. Yet, we could handle the increased risk of the mess when we stop to think about the many physical and emotional benefits of pet ownership. What we can’t do, however, is shake that nagging feeling that our kids just aren’t ready to become pet owners yet.
We may fear that they don’t yet have the organizational skills or the emotional maturity to have a pet yet. They worry that they might shirk or neglect their responsibilities and that the poor, blameless animal they bring into the home will suffer as a result. These are perfectly valid concerns, but the truth is that parents need to take a leap of faith in their kids every now and then if they expect them to grow into well-rounded mature and responsible adults. What’s more, you can keep an eye out for the telltale signs that your little one will exhibit when they’re ready to become pet owners…
They’re doing their research
Many parents worry that their kids’ desire to own a pet is based on nothing more than a whim or perhaps jealousy because a friend of theirs has something that they don’t. They may worry that their seemingly sincere desire for a pet is just a phase that they’ll immediately grow out of as soon as you decide to take the plunge and get them the guinea pig, rabbit, puppy, kitten or lizard they so desperately crave.
However, if you catch them online looking at how to litter train a kitten or searching for the best cages for guinea pigs, this can be a very encouraging sign. It demonstrates that they’re taking the prospect of being a pet owner seriously and easing themselves into the role psychologically; thinking about how they will keep and care for it.
They know how to conduct themselves around animals
Kids can easily get overexcited around animals. They can charge, hands-first towards their friends’ pets and wind up scaring the poor critters half to death in the process. However, many kids understand that animals do not behave in the same way as humans and need to be respected. They won’t make a beeline for their cousin’s dog. They’ll hold their hand out for the pooch to take a tentative sniff. They won’t chase their best friend’s cat around the room to try and smother it with affection. They’ll keep their distance and wait for kitty to come and say hello.
These are encouraging signs that your child has listened to adults who have told them the responsible way to behave around animals… Or they’ve been looking it up on the internet. Either way, this is definitely an encouraging sign.
They agree to commit to the responsibility before you make the purchase
Kids talk a big game, especially when it comes to pet ownership. But talk is cheap. You may worry that your kids say all the right things to you now, only to shirk their responsibilities as soon as the novelty of having a pet has worn off. While this is a risk that parents always face when introducing a pet into the home, it’s one that Moms and Dads can mitigate.
Draw up a contract detailing all the responsibilities that your child will need to undertake before you consent to let them have their own pet. Teachers use behavior contracts all the time to show students the importance of living up to their end of a bargain. And they can be useful here as well. A contract requires commitment and gives you a tool by which you can hold them to account. A kid who’s serious about owning a pet and is ready for the commitment will likely sign it without thinking twice. A kid who hasn’t thought the prospect through may be more reticent.
They lead busy lives outside of school
Kids have a lot of opportunities available to them. They can get involved with sports teams, take a part in the school play, learn to play a musical instrument or take up karate lessons. These extracurricular activities are great for kids. Not only do they help them to make new friends and learn new skills, they also teach them the value and importance of time management. If your kid is signed up to several extracurricular activities, teams or societies outside of school you may feel that this is a bad sign. You may worry that their busy schedules will prevent them from being able to take proper care of their new pet. But this can actually be a very encouraging sign. It means that they have learned to manage their time effectively, are organized and have the responsibility to commit to a wide range of activities.
They think about the family’s needs as well as just their own
If your kid asks you what kind of pet you’d like rather than simply telling you what they want, this can also be an extremely encouraging sign. Empathetic kids will want to determine what kind of pet is best for the whole family rather than what they want personally. And, needless to say, empathy is an incredibly important quality to have when you own a pet.
They have a lot of energy
Finally, pet ownership takes a lot of energy. Your child must be ready to get up early to walk the dog in the morning or feed the cat. Kids who are bursting with energy lead active lifestyles and are well suited to pet ownership than kids who need to be forcibly removed from the couch.
Wife, mother, grandma, blogger, all wrapped into one person, although it does not define her these are roles that are important to her. From empty nesters to living with our oldest and 2 grandchildren while our house is rebuilt after a house fire in 10/2018 my life is something new each day.