Texas ó The kittens looked so cute. Brother and sister
Bengal mix kittens named Jack and Jill sat on a cat tree
at the front of a local pet store. Soon we were holding
both of them. Then Jack fell asleep on me, and Jill on
my daughter, Ava. We had to get one, but we learned we
couldnít get Jill without getting Jack, so we went
from a no-cat family to a two-cat family.
justified a lot that day. Avaís 6th birthday was
coming up. We had a geriatric dog, maybe the cats would
keep the dog company. They were really cute.
four years of life with Jack and Jill, I wouldnít
trade them in. We love them, but cats are not the best
fit for our family.
should have done our research. We should have thought
beyond the cute kitten in the window to the practical:
Whoís going to take care of the litter box every day?
If thereís litter and balls of hair all over our
house, are we willing to clean more often? If we have
friends and family who are allergic, are we OK with them
not being able to stay at our house or even come for a
short visit? And could we really afford the geriatric
dog plus two kittens, who ended up with $3,000 worth of
vet bills that year? This is the time of year when
families might be considering a new pet for Christmas.
Maybe you have visions of a yellow Labrador puppy with a
red bow under the Christmas tree ó just like in a
donít think itís a bad idea," says Dr. John
Faught of Firehouse Animal Health Center. "It just
needs to be thought out. Ö Itís not like a new
PlayStation that youíre not using a year from now. Itís
going to be a dog thatís with you for 10-20
years." Pick the pet thatís right for your
you want to ease into pethood with a self-contained pet
like a goldfish, a hermit crab, a hamster or a gerbil?
The goldfish is not a pet you can play with, but you can
hold a rodent or a hermit crab or lizard. Just know
these probably arenít pets that are going to play
fetch. Kids might lose interest.
warns not to make a snap decision on cute pocket pets.
You might be in for more work and effort than you
thought. These pets require keeping the cage cleaned and
regular feeding. Sometimes they require grooming or
on your childrenís ages, you can have them sign a
pledge outlining the jobs they will need to complete and
how often and what the consequences or rewards will be.
Also, that cage cleaning and pet feeding will likely
fall on you, no matter what promises are made.
pets also have a short lifespan, which can be good
because, if kids lose interest, your commitment is only
a few years. But be prepared for a funeral and the tears
that come with it.
your family is looking at a cat, realize youíre making
a 15- to 20-year commitment. Like a dog, different
breeds have different personality traits, and you want
to match the breed to your family. Some cats are
fiercely independent and donít want to be messed with.
Others like to play and are very engaging.
you have a young child and a cat that doesnít want to
come out and play with him, if the cat gets backed into
a corner, the kid can get bit or scratched," Faught
thereís a myth that a kitten doesnít really require
extra work. Although kittens are nothing like puppies,
they still need socialization and litter-box training.
You have to teach them how to be a cat and set
guidelines about household rules. (Are kitchen counters
a playground or off-limits?) A dog is great for families
who want a pet that needs interaction and who want to be
able to take the pet on their adventures. When it comes
to a dog, you really need to know who you are as a
family. "Look at your family and how active your
family is and how much time you have to deal with your
pet," says Steve Haynes, a dog trainer who owns
Fidelio Dog Works.
has seen clients be really unrealistic. Theyíll choose
a working breed or a hunting breed when they donít
have time to exercise the dog or to give it jobs to do
to avoid behavior problems.
you are thinking of a puppy, realize that a puppy is
like having a baby. "Potty training a puppy and a
2-year-old at the same time, thatís hard," Haynes
take six months of training work minimum, and you want
to train them early. Between ages 6 weeks and 16 weeks
is the time to imprint on a puppy. Most puppies come to
families at 8 or 9 weeks old, so you have to start
working with them right away to have well-behaved
youíre looking for a rescue dog, Haynes and Faught
both suggest going through a reputable group that pulls
dogs out of animal shelters and fosters them. It will
know the dog better and can help you pick one that fits
you. And, if for some reason it doesnít work out, a
rescue group will happily take the dog back.
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a new dog or puppy, kids need to be taught not to ride
them or pick them up by their front legs. They shouldnít
tease the dog with food or put their face in the dogís
face or pick up the dog as if it were a stuffed animal.
Starting at age 6, kids can help train dogs by teaching
them their names. Children can feed, play and walk them,
with adult supervision, to teach the dog that good
things come from kids.
the dog is already there and youíre bringing a baby
into his or her world, start preparing a few months
before the birth by walking the dog with an empty
stroller, getting the dog on a schedule that you can
keep once the baby comes and teaching dogs a
"bed" or "place" command that will
send the dog to his or her comfort zone in the house.
This is especially helpful when the baby first comes
home and you need to nurse or put the baby in the crib.
Later on, it can be used as the baby starts to crawl or
walk or eat from a highchair.