As promised, I’m continuing on in my exploration of the issue of bringing a pet into the family. Is there a “best time” to get a pet? If so, how do you know when that time has arrived? To find out more, I looked to animal experts for advice. The ASPCA web site is a wonderful resource for anyone considering getting a pet, whether or not you have children.
On that site, I found a helpful guide to which pets are best for children in which age group. It probably goes without saying that infants can not take care of pets and can not touch or handle pets without close supervision. It is best not to get a new pet when you have an infant, and if you already have a pet when it is time for baby’s arrival, use care in introducing your baby to your pet so that they can come to accept the new arrival.
Once your baby becomes a toddler, his natural curiosity makes pets an irresistible target for poking, pulling, and grabbing hands. If you choose to adopt a pet at this time, make sure that they are capable of being touched in this manner. Also, make sure that you supervise your child and your pet at all times.
When your child turns three, a guinea pig makes an ideal companion. These little, warm fuzzies rarely bite, they like to be held, and will sometimes even whistle when they are happy. A child can learn about respectful touching and empathy from a guinea pig or other family pet. As your child grows, her capacity to understand the needs of animals grows with her as does her ability to become involved in their care by providing food and water, exercise, and other things.
Yesterday, Dylan and I visited friends who have a farm. Watching him interact with the animals made me aware of his natural ability to respect their space and to follow their lead when interacting with them. He seemed to gravitate towards the baby animals, especially the turkeys, ducks, and chicks. He seems like he would do well if we had some kind of pet like that but with a new baby in the house, I am not quite ready to add poultry care to the long list of household responsibilities. Perhaps in about a year, things will be different and we can get some young birds next spring.
Your child will be developmentally ready to welcome animals into his life during his toddler and childhood years. Deciding when to bring home which kind of animals is a choice that depends more upon your knowledge of your individual situation than anything else – use your “animal instinct” to guide you in the direction of the decision that is best for your family.