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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

The Practical Side of Family Pets

Jun 30, 2021 09:30AM ● By Ronica O’Hara
Small family white hamster pet sitting in grass and daisies.

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Evaluate the commitment. “It’s important to remember that taking care of pets is expensive and time consuming, and you’re making a commitment to the pet for the duration of their life,” cautions Jennifer Coates, DVM, an advisory board member of Pet News Daily. “Fostering is a great alternative if pet adoption sounds like more than you can handle. Children can also volunteer at some animal shelters (often when accompanied by a parent), allowing them to experience some of the benefits of caring for animals without the long-term commitment.”

Pick a child-friendly dog or cat. The American Kennel Society puts Labrador retrievers, bulldogs, golden retrievers and beagles at the top of their best family dog list. For cats, birman, ragdoll and Himalayan breeds are recommended as calm choices for kids by PetMD. Consider improving an animal’s life by taking home a shelter or rescue dog or cat. Shelter workers can help select a family-friendly choice. 

Consider other species. Smaller animals with fewer care demands may be a strategy if house space is limited or if a child needs to grow into responsibilities. Animals that can delight and teach include tropical fish, turtles, rabbits, birds, hamsters and lizards. Mae Waugh Barrios’ three children enjoy feeding, watering and collecting the eggs from the family’s four chickens every day at their Holliston, Massachusetts, home. “Not only do our farm-fresh eggs provide my family and my children with the best nutrition, it’s also been a lesson in symbiotic relationships. Because we give such good care to our chickens, they show their appreciation by providing us with delicious eggs,” says Barrios, who blogs at Raising Emerging Bilinguals

Train children about safety around dogs. It’s a natural impulse for younger children to run up excitedly to a dog and try to touch it, but this can create fear in the animal and raise the danger of an aggressive response. Instead, teach a child to ask permission of the adult handling the dog, and then to approach it slowly and calmly, letting it smell the back of the downward hand before touching it.


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