You may think that there are not enough hours in the day to take care of one more family member but there are definite benefits to having a pet from lowering stress to teaching kids responsibility. The lessons taught to kids while raising a pet stay with them as long as the memories made with a beloved animal friend. So…. Are you a dog person or a cat person? There are few people that don’t have a definitive answer to that question, but when you have kids there many things to think about when adopting a pet. Let’s consider the practical things; demeanor/personality, grooming, litter box vs. poop scooper, dry vs. wet food, veterinarian costs, and pet insurance.
When choosing a pet for your family demeanor and personality play a large part in how the children and pet will interact together. In general, dogs are playful and protective. Labradors and German Sheppard’s are two that come to mind for their ebullient personalities. Cats tend to be more aloof laid back animals best suited for cuddling and napping. Tabby cats are a personal favorite. Age is another factor. If your desire is to have a more relaxed animal that will show patience, then you will want a full grown adult animal about 2 to 3 years old. Not only will the pet already be potty trained they will have left all their mischievous behavior behind them during their youth.
Grooming is a tedious task for any pet owner. With felines there are short and long hair and depending on how much you like to vacuum and whether you bought stock in a company that manufactures lint rollers you may want to stick with a short hair. Cats have a leg up on dogs in the bathing category as they do it themselves though they do require nail clipping on a regular basis if you want to keep your couches looking their best. Dogs require the kind of frequent bathing that either happens at the groomers or in the tub or yard and if your child is anything like mine, they will love to clean the dog and get soaked in the process too.
No matter which pet you choose there is the matter of poo. When the time comes to adopt a pet your child will make promises like a Congressman running for election only to leave you literally holding the bag. Depending on your comfort level there are many options for cats from litter free boxes to the traditional scoop litter. For dogs, there are long handled scoopers for your walks with Fido or the old standby - bag over the hand. There are even biodegradable bags available at various retailers for dog waste. One of the best ways to make this easier for kids to take on, age permitting of course, is to integrate it into their daily habits. My son cleans our cat’s litter box after he gets ready for school in the morning. It takes him all of 3 minutes and having it as a part of a routine means that he doesn’t forget about it. Likewise for dogs, you can make a habit of letting them outside before breakfast or taking them for a walk before leaving the house for the day and returning in the evening.
One of the largest every day expenses of pet ownership is food and the bigger the pet the more food they require. Depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation you can go with wet or dry, though wet food is traditionally more expensive. Dry food has its advantages, since it helps keep plaque off their teeth (yes pets get plaque and cavities too) but wet food is superior in providing them with extra water in their diets.
Veterinary care is expensive and must be considered in the yearly cost of pet ownership. Shots, spay/neuter, microchip, declawing, and preventative medicines for heart worm and flea treatments just to name a few. Shelters like the SPCA in Sacramento hold adoption clinics where you can adopt pets for reasonable rates with an added bonus - they provide the pets with their shots, spay/neuter and a microchip tracker in case they become lost. They will even help you register your pet in the city you live. Currently the SPCA Sacramento has “Five Dollar Fridays” where adult cats can be adopted for just $5. Adopting an animal instead of choosing one from the pet store also teaches kids the importance of rescuing animals and it provides the shelter with much needed operating funds to continue helping animals.
Pet insurance is an area for debate. Some owners will tell you they bought a policy and never needed it – and others were glad they did when they ended up with a $1000 emergency veterinarian bill. When you first adopt a pet there is a narrow window in which you can sign up for the insurance. Typically policies cost under $20 a month depending on the breed of pet and the amount of coverage. The tricky part of the insurance is that if you do not sign up when you first adopt and your pet becomes sick the companies consider this a pre-existing condition and the policy will not cover that illness. Look into the policies out there, especially if you are adopting an older pet, it could potentially pay off in the long run as veterinarian costs can skyrocket into the thousands depending on the illness.
All money talk aside, brining a pet into the family is a exciting and rewarding endeavor. Learning to care for a pet teaches our kids to put others first and to be responsible. It is definitely a learning curve reinforcing the cleaning, feeding and walking but in the end kids rise to the challenge and feel pride in keeping all those promises they made when they asked for a pet.
6201 Florin-Perkins Road
Sacramento, CA 95826
Ph: (916) 383-7387
150 Corporation Yard Road
Roseville, CA 95678
Ph: (916) 782-7722 or (530) 885-7387
Fax: (916) 782-8655
Placer SPCA in Auburn
1482 Grass Valley Highway
Auburn, CA 95603
Ph: (530) 823-7722