As a child, I always loved having pets, but it wasn’t until I was an adult with my own child that I realized how important pets can be to a family. We currently have a dog, a cat, a lizard, and fish. At other times, we’ve had bug pets, frogs, hermit crabs – there’s always something crawling, swimming, or eating crickets in our house. Granted, there are days that I wonder what the heck I was thinking when I took on all these extra hungry mouths and attention needing beasts, but I am truly grateful for their companionship. There’s lots of information out there supporting the psychological benefits of owning pets, and I’ve personally watched my son benefit in learning responsibility, building relationships with others, and overcoming the monsters under his bed.
Thanks to our caged critters, my son is learning the value of being responsible. Each time we catch a cool bug or adopt a critter, our son has helped take care of them. Recently, he decided he wanted a bearded dragon lizard. So, we told him he could get one, but it was going to be his responsibility. He took this challenge seriously, researching what she needed and purchasing her with his own money. Our house smells a bit and always sounds like crickets, but boy does he love that lizard.
I am amazed at how our pets have strengthened our family relationships. Just as many parents say that having a baby helped them expand their focus to someone beyond themselves, having pets helps our family expand our focus to creatures that need our love and attention. They provide comic relief when we need a laugh. They bring us together as a team when they need special care. They occupy us when we’re bored. They’ve even helped my son socialize with company and neighbors by giving him something to talk about.
I credit the dog for finally conquering the epic struggle of monsters under the bed. My son has always had a very active imagination, making bedtime a little rough – so many monsters lying in wait every night! I didn’t think he would ever go to bed without having me lay down with him for half an hour or more. I decided to move the dog’s bed into his room for her keep an eye out for the monsters. It worked! Granted, I first had to convince him that she would be safe and could handle any monster invaders (where was this concern when I was the guardian?). Eventually, her presence was enough to ease his fears.
I absolutely love that my son gets to grow up with pets. The bond they’ve formed will stay in his heart forever. I know from experience that it’s not always possible to have some pets. Allergies and housing restrictions may make cats or dogs impossible to have, but there are several other options that may work! Sometimes, housing restrictions don’t include caged pets such as hamsters or lizards. Fish are fun, and you can get other critters in tanks, like crayfish or African dwarf frogs. We’ve also enjoyed several bug pets. Here are some resources if you are thinking about getting a pet and would like to research what’s right for your family:
- Ask a vet! Ask friends and family to recommend a good vet and then call the office to ask questions.
- The Humane Society: research breeds, find local shelters and rescues, and view adoptable pets in your area.
- LiveAquaria.com: research different kinds of fish and all their needs. I especially love their compatibility chart to help you pick fish that will live together peacefully.
- Small Pets (PetEducation.com): research information and how to pick healthy small pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits.
- Pet Bugs: If your child would enjoy catching their own bugs and keeping them as pets, we love all the information in this book by Sally Kneidel. Some toy stores also have lady bug and butterfly kits where you can order the larvae, raise them to adulthood, and then release them.