Foolproof pet selection guide
A family pet can hugely enrich your life. In fact research has shown that pet owners are healthier and happier than those of us without furry family members. But before you rush to the pet store with visions of your kids tossing a frisbee to a long-haired Labradoodle, read our complete guide to picking the purrfect pet first.
More than a mere animal
Today's dog house is more likely to be a suburban mansion, with Rover asleep on his owners' bed, than a wooden hut in the corner of the backyard. Pets are like family members, as loved as the kids and a lifelong commitment. So before you wander down the ‘what pet to choose path' ask yourself these basic questions to check if you're family is pet-ready:
- Who's going to look after it? - be realistic about this one, a young child probably won't fulfil his pet care duties to SPCA standards!
- Can we make sure it gets regular exercise?
- What will happen to it when we go away?
- How many hours in the day will it be left alone?
- Do we have a big enough backyard for it? Do we need fencing?
- Can we afford a pet? - factor in vet and vaccine costs on top of the weekly pet food bill.
Woof, woof or meow?
Dogs and cats are still the most popular family pet and it is possible to choose a breed that will fit in with your family's lifestyle, suit your backyard size and the level of maintenance you're prepared to outlay. But with so many breeds and cross-breeds to choose from, trying to work out which Fido or Silvester will best suit your family can be a headache.
Visit Selectapet to make this step easy-peasy. Simply answer a few questions and bingo, they'll give you a list of recommended breeds that are just right for you!
Fur, feathers or scales?
If you're thinking beyond a cat or dog, your pet choices are endless and include fish, birds, reptiles, small mammals, rodents and even insects. These alternate pet choices can really work in with your lifestyle and home, especially if you don't have a backyard! But don't be fooled into thinking they're necessarily low maintenance - even a goldfish (that can't be taken on holidays with you) needs regular water changes and feeding can be more work than a pedigree Persian cat!
Ask the pet store salesperson all about the level of up-keep required before giving in to your child's wish for a pet mouse. Also check out Kidspot's Kid-friendly pets article to get the lowdown on the most popular pet choices for kids.
While long haired dogs and cats are like supermodels of the animal world, they require regular grooming either by you or a professional groomer. So before you sign up for a silky Shih Tzu ask yourself if you're prepared to be its personal hairdresser.
Are you ready to be a new mum again?
Baby animals are almost as cute as newborn bubs and raising a dog from a pup is a wonderful experience. But just like human babies, animal bubs require lot of care - think potty training your toddler all over again! If you're not up for the extra effort of raising a baby, consider choosing a grownup dog or cat as a pet. Animal shelters like the SPCA can match you with kid-friendly orphans.
If you have an allergy-prone child, or an asthmatic in the family, you'll need to think long and hard about the type of pet that's not going to turn your household into sneeze city. Pet fur, saliva and skin flakes can set off a number of allergic reactions and while there are some hairless breeds of dogs and cats (think Mr Bigglesworth in Austin Powers and you'll get the idea!), these are still not entirely hyper-allergic. Chat to a vet about the best pet choice for your allergic family and read Kidspot's Keeping Healthy with Pets article.
Pets and kids
Owning a pet can teach your child responsibility and give her a special and unique companion that simply doesn't compare to human friendships. Unfortunately though, some dogs and cats don't always live well with your tot, especially if she thinks it's funny to pull Fido's ears and tail on a daily basis. Before you invest in a pet, read all about pet dangers and maybe wait a few years until she's passed the tale-tugging phase!
Why Fido can enrich your family's life
Research has found pet owners are a notch above those of us with non-furry friends in the happiness stakes:
- 83% women say their animals are one of their greatest sources of happiness according to the Boston Consultancy Group.
- A Deakin University study found kids aged 5 to 12 years were in better shape and less likely to be obese if they had a dog, even if they did not walk it regularly.
- According to a survey by the Australian Council of Animals 81% of owners say they never feel alone when they are with their pet.
- According to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, pet owners showed lower levels of risk factors for heart disease, including lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, than non pet owners
Find more My Spot Life articles:
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- Fast life changes for instant happiness
- The ultimate working from home guide
- How to deal with cringe-worthy kid moments
- Get your kids to look after the pets
- 52 weeks of health and happiness
- 10 simple ways for mums to save time
- Debt-proof your relationship
- Stay-cation: how to holiday at home
This article was written by Lana Hallowes for kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for use on kidspot.co.nz , New Zealand's number one parenting resource