A cuddly pup or kitten invariably attracts children’s attention. Children can be seen playing with pups of stray dogs and running after cats. Most children would love to have a pet for themselves; more so if their friend has one or they see something about pets on the television.
Pets for children are certainly a good idea. It can be a cute gift for them too.
A pet in the house not only livens up our routine life, but there’s a lot that children can learn too. Pets are all about life, loving and caring. Any kind of pet – a dog, a cat, guinea pigs or fishes, all are living beings like us, who cannot talk but all respond to love.
When there is a pet at home, the child considers it as a playmate. It is something which does not scold him or advice him/her like elders. So the child feels a sense of freedom and unconditional love for the animals. He/she runs with the dogs, cuddles it, plays ball with it, even talk with them. Pets can be like an emotional cushion to the children as they take them to be someone of their own level, different from the elder members of the family. It is a proven fact that pets are good for our emotional health.
In most cases children love to feed their pets. They feel and develop a sense of responsibility towards the animals, playing the part of a parent for the little pet. There’s a sense of ownership and thereby comes the responsibility of taking care of the pets. Starting with feeding, the children can be given the responsibility of taking the pets for their daily outings, periodic baths, trainings etc. These activities/responsibilities of feeding, cleaning etc. teaches them the importance of maintaining a daily timely schedule for every activity; as biologically animals usually follow a set time pattern made a habit by the owner.
Loving and caring for a mute animal makes the child sensitive towards other animals too. As they grow with the pet, other than playing and feeding it, the children also observe the essential happenings of life – the highs and lows of health & emotions. When a pet which is always in a playful mood, sulks and refuses to play, the child learns that something is wrong, something is bothering the poor creature. The extra care of the pet during its illness, the visits to the vet, vaccinations, giving/applying the prescribed medicines, the anxiety and wait for the pet to spring back to its playful self, all inculcate a very important lesson of life- Love and care can bring back hope and smile in all depressed souls!
Learning about life cycle is another lesson children learn from pets. Usually we bring a very young pet so that it can adapt and adjust easily with us. The children see how slowly the pup opens its eyes, and then learns to walk and eat, and then gradually the toilet training starts, quite similar to that of humans. Then the last stage of life! Like humans, animals too age with deteriorating health conditions like blindness, deafness, loss of appetite and movement. Death is inevitable, but as far as possible, we should try to make it comfortable with our love and care. After the pet passes away, the child learns to cope with the temporary emptiness at home.
(When we buried our first fish in our garden, my son had so many questions about what will happen to the fish. So I explained about decomposition of flesh and muscles, about bones, fossils and how we learnt about the existence of dinosaurs and human evolution, through the bones which do not decompose.)
Certain points to ponder before going for a pet
- First and foremost, go for a pet only if you really want one. Because then only you can give unconditional love to the animal.
- Second, pets (particularly dogs) involve lots of work, like preparing food, toilet training, taking them out about four times a day, cleaning and bathing, and regular visits to the vet for vaccinations & when sick.
- Third, consider the frequency of your outings/vacations. Pets get very much emotionally attached to the owner, the family members with whom it stays. They do not easily accept people outside there immediate adopted family. Even though now-a-days facilities like holiday food for fishes and holiday boarding for pets are available everywhere, many pets fall sick in the absence of the owner. They refuse food even from trusted, loving & caring helps, with whom they are left.
- Fourth, just like is often said for children, you need to spend time with your pets. It should not be a mere accessory. You have to take out time for the pet – play with them, cuddle them, talk to them. The more you bond with the pet, the better you can understand there unspoken needs and thereby have a healthy-happy companion.
- Fifth, there can be some health problems too, though these are rare. Some people are allergic to animal fur. It may trigger asthma like symptoms.
- Sixth point is, I personally feel, do not bring home a winged creature. A bird symbolizes freedom. Putting a free flying bird in a cage is like cutting its wings! Go for animals which are friendly with humans and can be easily domesticated.
Pets certainly broaden our experience of life and living. They teach us to live and love creatures other than ourselves and our blood relations. When children see their elders loving & caring plants& pets, they too learn the same.