Once you have kids, it's easy to think getting a pet isn't a big deal. After all, the kids are still alive, right? How hard could it be?
But before you go launching off to surprise your loved ones (grown up and littlies alike) this Christmas, there are some boring but practical things to consider. For your pet's wellbeing, and for your own. After all, you don't want to end up being the poop picker-upper for the next 15 years.
Now is the perfect time to get a pet
The good news is the RSPCA says this time of year, school holidays in particular, is a great time to introduce your family to a new furry friend or otherwise. This is because everyone is generally at home and not too busy. This is important as it gives a pup or kitten or fish a decent amount of time to adjust to its new environment; and for your family to adjust to having a pet!
Don’t give a pet as a ‘surprise’
Surprising the kids on Christmas morning might feel amazing, but the RSPCA actually advises against this. Instead, they say it's important to sit down as a family beforehand and discuss getting an animal. That way, you can set out expectations and duties as adults and children to avoid confusion or conflict later.
The main things to figure out who will be responsible for:
- Training (if going to pet school)
- Cleaning up "messes"
- Walking and exercise
Create rosters and budgets
If you're getting a family pet, the most democratic way to decide to do what is to make a rotating weekly roster (depending on your children’s age, of course.) There are some great templates online for free such as the one prefilled out below from Living Well Spend Less. They also have blank ones if that's more your style. Just print them out and put them on the fridge and away you go.
Discuss with your partner who will be responsible for vet visits and making sure the rest of the family helps out. It's also boring but important to decide where the money for vet visits, vaccinations, microchips, food and every other little expense a four-legged furry child will bring with it.
This will help minimise resentment that one person does everything and the other is a pet passenger.
Buy, Adopt, Foster?
Once everyone knows what they're expected to do once the family pet comes home, the next step is figuring out what sort of pet you want.
In the case of puppies and some cats, buying directly from a breeder can feel like the safest bet. It might not be. In the interest of transparency, we’re learning more and more about how breeding facilities and puppy farms can range from breeding animals that aren’t biologically equipped for every day tasks like walking long distance or breathing without choking, to being grotesque money-making schemes that toss out puppies that don’t look cute enough.
Calley Gibson, the owner of Instafamous puppo Pikelet a.k.a Life Of Pikelet has fostered over 50 animals with her husband over the last few years. She encourages families looking for a pet to not rush things, and to look into getting a rescue animal from a dedicated animal rescue group.
Calley explains "Because a rescue group will usually put their animals in foster care homes [before adoption] where they're brought up in a home environment. Those foster carers can give you a really good idea about what the animal's needs are, what the personality is, rather than this unknown of buying or adopting from a pound or buying from a breeder where you literally only know the looks, the aesthetics of the dog. You don’t really know anything else."
As utterly euphoric as it is to see your little ones surprised by a puppy or ball of fluff kitten on Christmas day, that spark of happiness can burn out just as quickly as it comes.
Research and planning are nowhere near as exciting as a surprise, but a happy home and a pet who is loved, appreciated and cared for is worth all the boring scheduling and walkies rosters in the world, isn't it?
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