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Things to Consider When Buying or Adopting a Pet for Your Kids

Published on: May 4, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

little girl hugging dog
Adding a pet to your family is a life-changing decision. It can be the start of a long and amazing relationship, unlike any other. If you’re buying or adopting a pet for your child, however, you want to get it right. Advance planning can help you avoid mistakes that could lead to heartache instead of a lifetime of love.

Consider the timing

Are you thinking of buying a pet as a holiday gift for your kids? Many vets advise against this. On the one hand, a noisy and impersonal shelter can be a very difficult environment for a lot of cats and dogs. The sooner they can get out of there and into a loving, attentive home, the better. They will immediately begin to blossom. On the other hand, bringing a brand new pet into your home’s holiday chaos could be just as bad, or worse. With so many holiday distractions, it can be very unfair to the new pet, and to your family as well. If the pet is a must-have gift, take your children along with you to pick out the dog or cat. It might be wiser to wait till after the holidays to bring them home. Ask your vet (and the shelter or breeder) for advice on this. While the idea of getting a pet as a holiday gift sounds fun and exciting, that feeling can wear off for children - at the expense of the poor animal. 

Consider your lifestyle

Are you (and your child) prepared for the commitment? You might expect your kid to help care for their new pet, but you can’t expect them to do it alone. They may be able to handle feeding, walking, or even the yuckier clean-up tasks, but it’s up to you as the pet parent (and grown-up) to ensure the animal’s health and safety. Veterinary care and everyday maintenance can be time-consuming (and not cheap). If you aren't sure if your family can meet a furry family member's needs, consider other pet causes to get involved with.
Do you expect to do any travel by air or ground with your new pet in the future? You should be aware that snub-nosed breeds of dogs and cats are sometimes not allowed to fly on certain airlines. That is due to concerns about respiratory issues, since it’s harder for these animals to breathe even under the best of circumstances. This applies only to a minority of pets, of course. But it’s something to think about for families likely to move internationally. Please see our article about pet friendly airlines and hotels to aid in your travel plans.
Do you and your family like to go on vacations each year? If you add a pet to the mix you'll have to either find someone to care for them while you're away or plan your trip around their accommodations as well.

Consider the source

Puppy scams are more and more on the rise and these scams range from online sale of stolen animals to puppy mills posing as “breeders” or even a scammer posing as a known pet transport company just trying to get your money (while no puppy actually exists). If you fall for these scams, you are supporting this awful trade. And you could well wind up with a pet that has serious health and/or behavioral problems. Not only that, but you could end up losing your money and not even getting a pet out of it.
You'll need to be careful to vet where your potential pet is coming from - whether that be from a reputable breeder, a local shelter or a recognized rescue group. Adopted cats and dogs make fabulous pets and a good place to look is Petfinder.com

Consider the size

Is your child still quite young? A lot of cats and dogs dislike being “mauled” by little kids. And a rambunctious mid-size or larger dog can easily knock a child down by accident. Confrontation and potential injuries are no way to start a long-term relationship with your new four-legged family member. Don't forget that you'll not only need to train your new dog - but your children also need to learn pet ownership responsibilities and to respect an animal's boundaries.
Size also matters depending on where you live. Larger dogs typically need a lot of exercise so you'll need to ensure you have the space to accommodate them or somewhere you can bring them to let out that energy. Since kids also have loads of energy, why not involve the whole family in regular fun-filled exercise to tucker everyone out! 

Include your child in the decision 

Above all else, you want a good match. A great match pairs personalities and anticipated companionship activities. A high-energy, rambunctious pet isn’t a good choice for a quiet child. An active child can overwhelm a timid or nervous pet. Researching different dog or cat breeds will help you make the right decision for buying or adopting a pet. Allow your kids to help make the final selection – after you’ve done the preliminary research. That will get the bonding process off to a good start.
Whatever pet you and your child choose, remember you are as new to them as they are to your household. Give them time and space to adjust. Emphasize positive, humane training. Including your child in dog obedience classes allows for even stronger bonding. It also helps your child and dog to learn consistent commands and cues, so they always know what’s expected. And give your new dog or cat plenty of cuddles. After all, you don’t want to miss out on all those purrs and tail wags.
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