Is theTime Right for a Family Pet?

Take your time when making this big decision.

by Sara Kendall


Is someone in your family clamoring for an animal companion? Are you getting big, teary-eyed promises about taking care of a pet:“I’ll walk the dog, even in the rain" or “I’ll scoop the litter box”?

Before adding a furry creature to your family, here are seven questions that, once answered, should steer you in the right direction and help you make the big decision.

Are you worried a family member might have animal allergies?

If you suspect anyone in your household might be allergic to animals, take them to the doctor. Save your family some heartache down the road by checking this out before you bring home a pet.

If someone is allergic to dander in dog and cat fur, has eczema, hay fever, or asthma, take these important health concerns into consideration when choosing a pet. If there is a problem, your family can go the fish-and-reptile route. You don’t need a dog or cat for your kid to learn how to be responsible and care for a living creature.

Is your child developmentally suited for a pet?

Puppies and kittens have sharp teeth and often teethe on anything, including children. This may result in unintentional injury and some unnecessary tears. The pet could become something that is feared rather than loved — a situation everyone wants to avoid. Make sure your children are old enough to handle and understand this and similar behavior.

Who is going to care for the pet?

If a child promises to care for a dog or cat (or hamster, fish, parakeet, etc.), keep in mind that child’s development stage. Little ones may think they can handle anything, but you cannot expect a child to take on the total responsibility. Older children tend to have less time to commit due to homework and after-school activities. One parent must agree to be the primary caretaker, so that the animal’s needs are not forgotten. If this isn’t realistic, seriously consider if the timing is right for a family pet.

How much time can you give the pet?

Dogs and cats require daily attention. Fish, birds, guinea pigs, and hamsters demand far less care but it's still constant. The amount of time your family can give a pet plays a big role in which type you and the kids can handle. Think about a typical week in your family’s life. Discuss with everyone how much attention they could give a pet. Be realistic and don’t overshoot the amount of time you and the kids actually have for a pet.

Can you handle the additional financial burden?

There is an intense involvement in raising furry companions. A family provides food, shelter, health care, pet boarding, and all other necessities. In the first year of a puppy's and kitten’s life, there are fairly high medical costs. There is a strict schedule for numerous vaccinations. Plus, the cost of neutering a pet can run up the medical bills. And don’t forget about food!

If vet bills, equipment, and food do not easily fit in the budget, reconsider a puppy or kitten. A slightly older animal may be the ticket, since it’s most likely medical treatments have been already performed. But you still have to feed and care for the animal.

Is the animal you want family-friendly?

Research dog and cat breeds to decide on a specific one. Different breeds react differently to the energy and excitement of children. This is particularly true about dogs. Easy going pets are best for a family. Local breeders are a good source to find out the best match for your family.

Can your family make a 12- to 15-year commitment?

A pet relies upon a family for almost all of their needs for their entire life. Dogs and cats have a long life span, which means 12 to 15 years of care every single day. Do not enter into this arrangement lightly.

Deciding on a family pet is not as easy as it seems. Before you decide to welcome a dog or cat into your home, give the arrangement a lot of thought and consideration. Pets require a commitment of time, energy, and money. Do your homework, take your time, and make an honest assessment as to whether your home is right for a pet.


Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and mother of two daughters.