Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Getting a Family Pet

By Brandi M. Seals

Selecting a family pet can be difficult, especially if there are small children involved. Some animals are better for homes with children than others. Choose one of the following kid-friendly pets for your family. Do a little research and decide which is best for you and your family.

Kid Friendly Pets

1.) Dogs
Dogs can be excellent pets for children. They are loyal, fun to play with and can be very gentle around children. Before picking a breed read up on their tendencies. Large dogs like Great Danes, St. Bernards and Dobermans are not great choices if you have small children. Large dogs grow quickly and inadvertently injure children by playing too rough or rolling on them. You may also wish to steer clear of Dalmatians. These cute puppies have a tendency to be deaf (deafness affects approximately 10% of these dogs) and may react poorly when surprised. Do a little research first and find the perfect dog for you and your family.

2.) Cats
Cats seem to come in two varieties - those that love neck scratches and lap time with their owners. The other type likes solitude and has little to do with the humans who care for them. While you may like a lap kitty and your child may get more one-on-one time with the animal, both cat personalities can work well in most households. Pay attention to whether your child exhibits any allergic reaction symptoms to cats. Many people are affected by cat allergies. Keep everyone in your home healthy and happy by making sure there are no cat allergies before you adopt one of these fun bundles of fur.

3.) Hermit Crabs
What is easier to take care of then a hermit crab? These interesting pets live in shells that they scavenge for in nature. Keep them in a dry tank with some extra shells so that they can move up in the world if they want to. Also, don't have a lonely crab. Buy more than one so your crab will always have company. Before heading home with your new hermit crab check with whoever sells it to you to determine if your species drinks fresh water or salt water.

4.) Rabbits
These furry little guys live for 5-10 years and can be kept indoors or outside just be sure to give them plenty of space to exercise. Each rabbit is different but in generally they love to run about and hide when scared. If you have a quiet home and want to spice things up, a rabbit could be the answer.

5.) Fish
Fish are easy to keep and care for. Beginners will need to invest in the necessary equipment like a tank, filter, fish food, etc. But once the basic supplies are bought, fish are generally very easy to care for. Remember to keep their tank clean and to feed them regularly. If you are looking for more of a challenge after awhile, why not try to create a self-supporting saltwater tank?

6.) Gerbils
These low-cost animals make great first pets. They live in their cages year-round and can be fun to watch. Caretakers simply keep the cage clean, feed and water the little critters and make sure the gerbils have something to chew on. Tubes from toilet paper rolls and paper towel are wonderful chew toys and will keep your gerbil busy. Just keep in mind that these little guys are nocturnal and it may not be the best idea to keep them in your child's room as they will run on their squeaky wheel all night long.

Taking Your Pet Home

Once you have decided which pet would be best for your family, follow these tips to keep your child safe and help adjust to owning a pet:

Take your pet to the vet for a check up. The place you got your pet (from a breeder, shelter, or pet store) may allow you to have an animal examined and returned within an agreed-upon time period if the animals unhealthy. Discuss this with the manager where you want to get your pet. It may already be part of your pet-purchase contract.

Watch your child and new pet interact. Pay close attention to how the animal is handled. Teach your child to never to squeeze the animal, not to drop them, play too rough or pick up an unsuspecting pet.

Make sure your child knows not to tease animals or pull their tails or ears.

Remind children that pets do not like to be bothered while eating, sleeping, or tending to their young. And teach your child never to take a toy or bone away from a dog.

As much as you love and trust your pet, it should never be left unsupervised near an infant or toddler. Too much can happen too quickly. Young children have a tendency to pull or tug on animals and handle them too roughly. Pets may be alarmed by this behavior and react inappropriately.

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