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Having pets in the home is a great way for children to learn about responsibility as well as helping them to develop a nurturing, kind nature towards animals, and indeed, people! However, although it may seem nice to have a cat sniffing round your ankles or a dog wagging his tail at you, the reality of keeping a pet can be very different.
Not all animals are suitable for pets - unless you live in a rambling country house or a farm! To start with, go for something easy to look after (as it may be you doing the messy work rather than your children!) Choose something small, easy to keep, easy to exercise, cheap to maintain, and that fits your home and surroundings.
- Hamsters, rabbits, mice, guinea pigs: These are all nice and small and provided they are fed, watered and cleaned they will pretty much look after themselves. Vet bills are low as they need little with regards medical support unless there is an unexpected problem. Food is cheap and bedding is cheap. Hamsters are good to keep but do lots of sleeping during the day as they are actually desert animals and tend to come out when its cooler.
- Dogs: great for companionship, but they are expensive and need exercise. If you get one from Battersea Dog's Home, check their temperament, what their background is and whether they have a history of being with children. Also, check how big they will grow! Dogs also need training, need to be socialised and groomed and they are demanding when it comes to entertainment. They like to be played with and walked and to have a run. They need toys, lots of food, equipment such as leads, baskets, collars etc and their vet bills can be very expensiveeven just for vaccinations and health checks. Big dogs could bowl over a child but many are very patient with little ones pulling their ears or treading on their toes. Just keep an eye on the dogs and children when in close proximity.
- Cats: are fairly independent and spend much of their time out of the house. They need vaccinations and can require vets attention for various ailments. They also may chew or scratch furniture so need training. Cats and kittens are not really suitable for children under five. A toddler's affection could seriously damage a kitten! Older cats may be able to cope with the sudden noise and movement of children, but may also find being in a room full of noisy children rather threatening. They may run away or may swat with a paw. With regards a cat smothering a baby, it seems this is largely exaggerated. However, it is strongly advised that a cat should not sleep on a child's bed for fear of suffocation.
- Mini-pets: goldfish are a great option is your space, time and patience is short. Children love the idea of a fish as a pet and will enjoy getting involved with the feeding and cleaning. Avoid reptiles, unless you are already familiar with owning them, as they are expensive and need all sorts of specialist equipment.