Chances are, you’ll eventually start to get requests for a family pet. And while the vision of joyful little faces and a cute animal running around are almost enough to make you take the leap, you know adopting a pet is a serious responsibility that requires thorough planning. So, how do you know if it’s the right time to consider getting a family pet? Is there a clear sign it’s the right time?
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Establish realistic expectations
First, it’s important to communicate with your children about the responsibilities involved with being a pet owner. You’ll want them to have a clear idea of what they’d be getting into with tasks like filling the food and water bowls, cleaning up accidents in the house, making sure they get exercise, and any other age-appropriate chores they would be handling regularly. It’s essential for them to know that while having a pet can bring a lot of joy, it also requires extra work to tend to their health and well-being. Their expectations should be realistic before considering moving forward.
Consider a trial run
You’ll also want to consider having a trial run before making any final decisions. This could look like dog sitting for a friend or going to a local shelter and seeing how your child handles being around and caring for animals. Are they displaying gentle behavior? Have they displayed the ability to understand boundaries when an animal needs space? It’s an important piece of the evaluation process that can help you see how they interact with pets in real-time, learn how to care for them well, and if they’re prepared for pet ownership. They may love the idea in theory but not enjoy the reality of it.
Logistics you’ll need to take care of
Another factor to keep in mind is that while your child may shoulder some of the responsibilities, you’ll be the primary caretaker as the adult. You’ll be in charge of things like scheduling and going to veterinarian appointments, walking them, paying for medical costs, staying on top of potty training, being involved and available for an emergency, and taking care of tasks your kid can’t handle yet. Regardless of having help, you’ll still have a lot of responsibilities that fall on you. That should be part of your evaluation process when making that decision.
Along with making sure their expectations are realistic, you should let your child know that once a pet is in the home, they’re there to stay. While a child might be excited about a cute puppy or kitten, you want to be sure they’ll still want to be involved once they grow out of that stage.
Ultimately, it has to be the right decision for everyone in the family. There are several factors to consider, and if a parent or child isn’t on board, it may be time to pass. However, if all the costs and responsibilities of pet ownership are thought through and no red flags stop you from moving forward, it might be the right time for a family pet.
While they may bring extra work, they also bring joy and love into the household. Knowing when the time is right is a personal choice; there’s no formula. But these are some ways you can feel more confident you’ll make the right decision as parents and as a family. It should be a decision that brings more joy than stress. So, set up some parameters or a checklist that would make all of you feel confident in identifying when it’s the right time to adopt a pet.