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Pet question please

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41andthankful posted 11/18/2013 08:17 AM

Our therapist thinks this will be a good time to get my daughter (4 years) a pet. The problem is I have never had a pet of any kind. She wants a kitten or a puppy. For those of you who have pets, which would you suggest for a first pet? (She's not going for the goldfish idea :). Thanks!

Neznayou posted 11/18/2013 09:02 AM

I like guinea pigs. They have personality and can be handled, but they go into a cage (ideally 10 sq ft) so they are easier to leave for a weekend. However, they do live 6-8 years, shorter than dogs or cats, but still quite a long time for a 4 year old.

Hamsters are another good choice -- personality and cages, but only about a 2 year life span.

DO NOT get a turtle. They smell, are way more expensive than one would expect, and live forever!

Check out the human society. Ours did have small animals besides the usual dogs and cats.

Kalleigh posted 11/18/2013 09:41 AM

I second Guinea pigs, they have great personalities, I would stay away from hamsters they are boring after awhile.

Cats are good too. Easy to care for,

With those above you will have cage and litter cleaning.

Puppies are a lot more work, training and teaching. if you are not a pet person, I wouldnt start there. even us experienced pet owners are quesitoning about getting a puppy lol.

41andthankful posted 11/18/2013 09:52 AM

Thank you both. I didn't even think outside of kittens and puppies.

lieshurt posted 11/18/2013 10:32 AM

I love dogs, but if you've never had one, then I'd just adopt an adult dog. Most animal shelters, like the SPCA, have screened the dogs and list their temperament around small children. You have to research the breeds though. For example, if you live in an apartment, you don't want a dog that needs a big yard and lots of exercise. Or, one that barks a lot.

Crescita posted 11/18/2013 10:52 AM

I'm also a fan of adult pets. Some people are animal whispers and want to start as early as possible, but if you don't have the time or experience, it's so much easier to find a pet that is already trained/housebroken

simplydevastated posted 11/18/2013 11:51 AM

I've grown up with dogs and I also have two cats. I've had them since they were kittens. To me, it's easier to train a cat than a dog.

* Keep the litter box in an easily accessible place
* Show the kitten where it is and move their paws in the litter to simulate scratching and your done.
* Keep their claws trimmed so they don't get stuck to things (curtains, sofas, blankets etc...) Some cats/kittens don't always pull their claws back in to release themselves.

There's really not much to it. Plus, if you live in a cold climate, you don't have to walk them in the winter

The other thing you may want to consider before getting a pet is to find out if she has pet allergies. There's nothing worse than finding out after the fact and then having to take her beloved pet away for health reasons.

Good Luck.

dazdandconfuzed posted 11/18/2013 12:06 PM

Problem with guinea pigs - you can not housetrain a guinea pig. They will usually pick a favorite corner of their cage to go - but if you have taken they out for DD to love up, they WILL pee and or poop wherever they feel like it. On your carpet, on your DD, wherever. My DD loved hers, until it peed and pooped on her.

Puppies are just plain hard. We have always had dogs. We currently have 3, two are just a year old so technically still puppies. They are in to everything. I don't even want to tell you how much we just spent on one that ate some rubber bands and had to have exploratory surgery, just to learn they had indeed all been pooped out.

Kittens are easier, and really delightful little things - but at 4 your DD might not be old enough to treat a tiny kitten gently. And a tiny kitten won't treat her gently. Puppies/kittens teethe just like babies which means they like to chew on things. Including people, and their teeth can be like little needles.

I would also recommend an older animal for a first pet. For a cat I would try to find out it's history. You are better off with an owner surrender than a feral cat as they tend to want to stay feral. Even a kitten that came from a feral mom tends to be a lot less tame than a cat raised in someone's home. Dogs tend to calm down with the chewing and stuff quite a bit around a year and a half - but you need to keep in mind that you can leave an adult cat overnight, but you can't leave a dog overnight.

41andthankful posted 11/18/2013 12:10 PM

Wow I'm so green to this and most sounds a little overwhelming. Thanks for the information.

HurtButHopeful? posted 11/18/2013 13:34 PM

One more thing to remember about getting a pet: the novelty will wear off, and you will be doing all the cleaning up, feeding and watering of the pet.

We have a dog, 2 cats and 3 guinea pigs. All three require equal amounts of attention, although different types. Our children are 11 and up, and they are able to care for the pets on their own...but not without constant reminding from Mr. HBH and I. The pets would starve, and the house would be filthy (pet related stuff) if we left it up to the children to remember pet related chores.

Make sure you want a pet before getting one for your child. I've known people that started with a fish, because of the lack of mess, shorter life span and less work for the parent, while teaching the child responsibility.

edited to fix computer glitch with bold/italic

[This message edited by HurtButHopeful? at 3:13 PM, November 18th (Monday)]

tushnurse posted 11/18/2013 14:52 PM

I am an animal nut. I have had just about anything you can think of as a pet.

I do think that Guinea pigs are great pets, but they do much better when in pairs. Like to play and chase, and snuggle up together, they live in groups in the wild. They are relatively low maintenence, as far as care goes, clean the cage once a week, scoop out the yucky shavings, put in fresh, I let them run around in the living room while that's being done, they need their nails clipped, and enjoy being held.

I would stay away from hamsters, and gerbils, they can both be mean, and bite, and if they do, your kid will never want anything to do with it again.

An adult, or near adult cat is a great choice as well. Many shelters offer fostering, and it's not hard to find one you would like that's litter box trained, and has been around children. I would recommend that you look into something with either Ragdoll, or Maine Coon in it as their fur tends to less allergenic, and their personalities way more laid back generally speaking.

Dogs/Puppies, are hugely time consuming, and unless you are a SAHM, it can be difficult to give enough time and attention to one to train it into a well behaved, animal. But as far as the bond, and connection you will have with an animal I have to say I have never been closer to anything than several of the dogs I have owned. Both as a kid and as an adult.

Your 4 year old is capable of helping out with the upkeep on any pet you choose, and should be held responsible for some of it. Having pets teaches many life lessons and puts kids ahead in the game for having learned responsiblity, empathy, the need for having and following rules, dealing with death.

We have lost 2 dogs, a cat, a guinea pig and a lizard (gecko) in the past 2 years, and my kids have grieved the loss of each differently, and have a good understanding of the process of grief. It was a lot to deal with at the time, esp the cat, and the one dog they passed within a month or so of each other, but it was their time.

I would not recommend the following "pets" for kids

I would consider for a first pet for someone that has never had pets:
A Crab
A beta
if you are more adventurous and both you and your kiddo want a pet
An adult cat, or a pair of guinea pigs.

Pentup posted 11/18/2013 14:57 PM

Also to consider, does anyone in your house have allergies or asthma? Many pets are relinquished due to allergies. If you do not know, then maybe offer to take care of a friends pet for a few days so that you can check out how you feel about having a pet in the house and making sure no one is allergic.

osxgirl posted 11/18/2013 15:42 PM

Echoing what some others here have said, with some comments:

Hermit crabs are great! But be prepared - sometimes they live forever, and sometimes they die quickly. And when they die, you have to deal with that with the child. Not necessarily a bad lesson, but you should be prepared. Also, most people just stick them in a fishbowl or small aquarium and call it good. But if you want any success at all with keeping them alive, there are a few things you need:
- several shells of different sizes (same size and larger than the one they are currently in) so they can change as needed when they molt and grow.

- Water. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but... they actually need a somewhat moist environment, even though they are land creatures. It's best to keep a (somewhat) large but shallow dish of water in with them, make sure it is ALWAYS full, and keep a spray bottle of water handy, and spray their "home" with it frequently. To help with the humidity, keeping a small sponge in their water dish will help. Also, its better to use filtered or distilled water.

- Heat. Especially in winter, most homes are actually too cold for hermit crabs. Look for small heaters at the pet store that are used for reptiles. Putting a small one of those under whatever you use for the crabs is a really good idea. They require around 75 degrees (F). A heat lamp or keeping them in a window is not a good idea - they CAN overheat, and the window would not provide a consistent enough heat source anyway.

- Something they can dig down into and room to move around. They need to be able to dig and climb.


Bettas are a good "starter" fish, and interesting too. But if you do go with this, instead of putting it just in a bowl, you'd be better off with one of the "mini" aquariums. Even though they are anabantoids (take in air through gills and can breathe by taking in air through the mouth), they do much better if the water has a filter to provide oxygenation. Without that, you should be changing the water every day or two. Also, the caveat about dying comes in here as well... with hermit crabs and fish, it's easy for something to go wrong and you not have any idea until the creature has died. But these are great fish - almost as hardy (read, hard to kill) as goldfish, but very colorful, and can be very responsive - they learn quickly to beg for food, believe it or not.


And cats - they are actually probably about one of the easiest pets to take care of. I agree strongly with not getting a feral or even one that had a feral as a mother - they can be great and very affectionate, but getting them to that point can take a lot of work, and even then, they can be a lot more temperamental than other cats.

And I can't agree enough with the recommendation of Maine Coon - add to that Norwegian Forest cat. Of course, getting one from a breeder would be expensive, but they are some of the most friendly and playful of cats. But shelter cats can be great - and sometimes you can find specific breeds there. The most important thing, though, is to meet the cat in person, preferably with all family members, and see if the cat "meshes", personality-wise, with the family.


Finally, before you make any decision, do a quick search on whatever animal you are thinking about to get a better idea of what the basic care and requirements of that animal are.

[This message edited by osxgirl at 3:10 PM, November 21st (Thursday)]

ninebark posted 11/18/2013 15:54 PM

We have a cat, a dog and a gecko. We also have had a gerbal, a beta and two rats. Please, please take lots of time to research a pet. Man people rush in and get something cute but are unaware of the work involved, like rabbits.

Gerbals are cute and friendly, better than hampsters. Dogs are a lot of work, cats are pretty low key. Just be aware all pets can be time consuming and there is a cost attached to all of them. That being said they are all a big part of our family.

41andthankful posted 11/18/2013 18:15 PM

You all are great :). Given my current situation(separated on the way to d) I'm not sure I can take on such a task. I am so glad I asked. You all have given a much clearer picture. Thanks.

Lionne posted 11/18/2013 19:11 PM

I am a huge animal lover, we have had just about any kind of animal out there...consider a Beta. They are EASY and fun. Not cuddly, but they do require a little bit of care, and are fun to watch as they puff up if you put a mirror nearby.

If you do decide to get a cat, ABSOLUTELY get an adult, 1-3 years old. You will know his/her personality, be able to get one that is friendly and a "lap" cat. I've had lovable kittens become FIERCE cats, but adults that are sweeties. Cats are relatively easy.

Almost all pets require a fair amount of bills can add up.

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