Family life

Should we get a pet?

Are pets passé for today's always-on-the-go families, or something that's missing from Tracy's family?

By Tracy Chappell
Should we get a pet?

Photo by MowT via Flickr.

“Pretty pretty please please please please PLEASE puh-leeze can we get a pet?” asks — er, begs — my six-year-old daughter. “I really need one. So can we? Can we pretty pretty puh-leeeeeze?”
A pet. What’s the problem, really? Kids and pets go together like PB&J, don’t they? Pets often become the centre of a family — the one individual everyone mutually adores, even when he scratches up the hardwood. Kids grow up with pets, snuggling with them, finding peace with them, walking and talking with them. What’s not to love?
Honestly, it just feels like a lot of work (more work than what I’m doing now, anyway!). The training, the care, the feeding, the vet bills. The hair. Oh, the hair! I hardly know anyone with a pet anymore, aside from my sisters, who have four cats and two dogs between them. Are pets passé? Are our busy lifestyles a deterrent to pet ownership these days?
Of course, it depends on what kind of pet. My kids want a cat. Or a guinea pig. Tonight, Avery said she wants a skunk. They both want a new “Angelina.” But the idea of a cat keeps coming back. Dogs are definitely out — I’m not a dog person at all, and they require the most daily attention. But I’ll be honest, a cat tempts me.
I grew up with a cat. He was a Christmas gift when I was nine. I adored him, even though he was one of those snotty cats who couldn’t be bothered with me most of the time. I loved coming home to a pet, but really, I didn’t have to be in charge of his care. Why? Because my mom loved him more, and as I went about my life — sleepovers and school dances and university — she was the one who really looked after him.
Now I’m the mom, and all too aware that if we get a pet, caring for him will pretty much fall on my shoulders. If that’s the case, I’d want a cat. You can’t cuddle up to a fish and I have a thing about pets in cages… I don’t know. They seem temporary. Not a true part of the family.
I do buy into the idea that a pet could be good for us, and good for the girls. I’ve often heard that pets can be particularly helpful to teach kids empathy and sensitivity, to look beyond themselves and think of the well-being of another. I like that idea. And I admit that I like the idea of a cuddly kitty on my lap while I’m watching TV or working.
What don’t I like? Cat hair. Honestly, I think it’s what’s holding me back — the hair, and the smell. My sister said I should get one of those freaky hairless cats, but I do draw the line there. I need a pet I can cuddle.
Should we get a pet? Do you have one? Is it more or less work (and fun) than you imagined?

Photo by MowT via Flickr.

This article was originally published on Oct 11, 2012

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