• Search
A lifestyle magazine for Central Florida's modern parents

Choosing a Family Pet

Photo by Melissa Valiante

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, raising children with pets can benefit a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. A family pet can also encourage compassion and empathy. But, unlike a sweater that you return if it doesn’t fit quite right, choosing a pet shouldn’t be an impulse buy. 

Before surprising your children with a new pet, consider your family’s lifestyle, finances and personality to decide which pet is right for you. According to Barbara Poe, a humane society manager, 75 percent of the animals returned to the shelter result from families adding a pet to their households without considering the challenges. “This percentage rises when talking about the return of puppies. Puppies require a lot of time, socialization and training,” Poe says.

A Moment of Your Time? 

First, take a look at a typical day for your family to determine if you’re home enough to provide the care and attention a pet deserves. “Kittens and puppies are like having an extra toddler in your house. They require a lot of supervision because they will chew on things, climb on things or get into things you don’t necessarily want them to or that might be harmful to them,” says Dawn Morgan, manager of volunteer and client services at an animal rescue organization. 

While older dogs and cats may adjust better to a busy lifestyle, they still need exercise, playtime, training and grooming. Without enough exercise and social interaction, a bored, lonely dog may take out its frustrations engaged in destructive behaviors like chewing and digging.

Less demanding pets like fish might work better for families with hectic schedules. As with any pet, determine in advance how much you want your child to help, whether it’s with feeding or cleaning. Be prepared to enforce the rules and pick up any slack.

A Financial Commitment

Besides food, vaccinations, spaying or neutering and supplies, the scale slides wildly when considering the overall financial cost of a pet. Life expectancies vary, and if your pet develops health problems, you’ll likely pay more for its care over the long haul than for an otherwise healthy animal. Also, if you choose a more exotic pet like a guinea pig, bird or a reptile, prepare to pay a little extra for a veterinarian who specializes in handling exotic animals.

It’s a Match! 

To ensure both the safety of your child and the welfare of the animal, understand the temperament of various types of animals. “It’s really important when you think to bring a pet into your home that you look for a dog or cat that matches your personality and will fit into the dynamic of your family instead of just the one that is the cutest,” Morgan says.

If you’re adopting from a shelter, talk to the volunteer who walks and feeds the animals. This person usually spends the most time with individual cats and dogs and can talk to you about their personalities and which ones would do well in a home with children. 

Among dogs, research breeds and mixes. While retrievers and labradors tend to be good family dogs, some families don’t realize how much exercise and attention these breeds require. 

Take into account your child’s personality as well. “Shy or timid kids are confusing to a dog. Dogs react differently to a shy, fearful behavior and may see it as a threatening behavior,” says veterinarian Dr. Andrea Ferrell. 

If you choose a puppy, enroll in a puppy training class to ensure that it learns to properly interact with people and to socialize with other dogs. 

Pocket Pets 

With parental supervision, animals like rabbits, guinea pigs and other small mammals make good first-time pets for children who are ready for the responsibility of caring for an animal. Purchase a young rabbit or guinea pig so that it grows accustomed to handling. While they don’t require much in the way of exercise, rabbits and guinea pigs do enjoy social interaction and clean, indoor enclosures.

Birds and Reptiles

Carefully research other small animals like birds, reptiles and amphibians before adding them to your family. Many of these animals are neither easy to care for nor to handle. Turtles, in particular, carry Salmonella bacteria on their shells, which can sicken a child still learning hand-washing hygiene.

When researching the right pet for you, talk to friends and family who own pets that you are interested in, your veterinarian or your local animal shelter. For more tips and information, visit veterinarypartners.com.

Christa Melnyk Hines
Written by
Christa Melnyk Hines

Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines and her husband are the parents of two boys. Christa is the author of "Confidently Connected: A Mom's Guide to a Satisfying Social Life."

View all articles
Christa Melnyk Hines Written by Christa Melnyk Hines

Categories

Follow us

Proactively formulate resource-leveling imperatives through alternative process improvements.

Family Events

June 2020

June 1, 2020
Free


The Greater Orlando Scavenger Hunt, or GOSH for short, can be found on Facebook and Instagram. Each Monday and Thursday, GOSH ...

More
June 1, 2020


Online Virtual House Party and Online Bilingual Birdies! Now offering 10 weeks of House Party classes, and 14 weeks of Bilingual Birdies classes ...

More
June 1, 2020


KIDS SUMMER COOKING CAMP 2020
Camp Schedule
Week 1 June 1st – 5th


More
June 1, 2020


DANCE CAMP Join RBO for 9 Themed Weeks of Dancing, Singing, and Arts & Crafts! Camp runs 9:00 - 3:00pm, with early ...

More
June 1, 202010:00 am
Nature Play


Fun sessions for children and parents/guardians to enjoy together.





Fun sessions for children and parents/guardians to enjoy together.





Pony rides!
Pony grooming!
Horse and Pony petting
Meet and pet the farm animals- donkeys, horses, ponies, mules, mini horses, cats, dogs, goats, chickens, alpaca, Llama etc.





Bring apples and carrots to feed the horses - please make sure to cut them up so it’s easier for feeding!


April 6, 2020All working days 10:00 am / 6:00 pm
All Kids Spanish
2902 North Orange Avenue
Open Map
Class / Educational / Festivals

Toddlers-5th Grade
We are here to help! We understand that even though we are going through a tough time, your children's learning process must continue.We have different Spanish ...

More
June 2, 2020


Goldfish Swim School in Winter Park is ready to welcome swimmers back form classes!



Goldfish Swim School in Winter Park is ready to welcome swimmers back form classes!


June 3, 2020


The Wheel at ICON Park will once again be lit up in its signature colors, rolling and ready for riders to ...

More
June 3, 2020


Learn to row or Improve your skills! A fun way to spend your hot summer days….on the water! Call ...

More
June 3, 20209:00 am / 4:00 pm


Fill up your summer with WILD adventures at the Central Florida Zoo! Campers will meet the animal staff in Jr. Zoo ...

More
More