Most people have strong views about owning a pet, but for those wondering about welcoming one into their family home, here are some of the pros and cons.
Let’s start with the cons: Costs – vet bills, food, insurance can all add up. Allergies – (although some studies have shown how children growing up in homes with pets can mean less risk of developing asthma and allergies.) Pet hair, scratching, mud etc. The bringing in of other animals, (there was a frog in the kitchen earlier today!) Cleaning up poo! The risk of a pet biting or scratching your child. Arranging for someone to look after them when you are away.
But now the many pros (can you tell I’m biased!): Pets are lovely to have around – they are affectionate (not sure about fish?!), fun and children love them. They give children and teenagers a sense of responsibility – they learn how to feed/care for them along with helping them develop other life skills such as empathy and how to be gentle. Pets have their own personalities – they can make you laugh and have been proven to reduce stress. Pets can create an added common bond in a family.
My own family experience of pets is owning cats: Puffin joined our family last October after, very sadly, our 13-year-old cat Moomin died in the summer. When my son Ed came along three years ago, Moomin adapted very well to having a baby around. She was luckily very gentle with him and Ed was encouraged to be gentle with her from the start. Of course, I did worry about her scratching him and that did happen mildly a few times if he pulled her tail as a one-year-old. However, she was watched and Ed quickly learned not to do that again!
After Moomin, I really didn’t think we would have another pet but then I started looking at the Cheltenham Animal Shelter webpage and the RSPCA. They both have apps so you can swipe through to find out about all the pets from fluffy rabbits to cheeky looking dogs. Once started, I was hooked! Their little faces all seemed to say, ‘pick me, pick me!’ I thought about the idea of a dog as my husband grew up with one, but we decided on a cat again and started enquiring. Both charities are very good at vetting for the right kind of owner: they say if an animal isn’t suited to a busy household with children. Once we had read about some cats, I phoned the centres. A few pets go very quickly, so if you see one you like the look of, you need to get in fast. But there are also many available. Apparently, black cats like Puffin are the last to go..maybe something to do with superstitions.
I phoned the RSPCA to arrange a visit to see two cats at a farm/cattery. The people involved are all volunteers. I met ‘Calypso’ as she was named. She had already had three kittens but was still only a one-year-old herself and she was very skinny. She was lovely and affectionate and the RSPCA suggested that she would be suitable for a home with children. We paid the £60 adoption fee, which is a donation to the RSPCA and they are very thorough: cats are neutered and microchipped and an RSPCA visitor will come out to check your home. You are also offered 6 weeks free insurance.
On getting our cat home, we decided to call her Puffin. She ran straight under a cupboard but we left her and she soon came out. Despite having a litter tray which she used sometimes, we had a few problems with poo around the house (TMI!) in the first few weeks but as soon as she was going outside it stopped. We have recently had a check-up visit from the RSPCA and it feels like Puffin is very much part of the family. I believe that having a pet means that my son is more affectionate with animals and isn’t scared of them. Puffin is the gentlest, most affectionate and funny cat and I’m so glad we decided on owning another one.
It would be great to hear from other pet owners about the pros and cons of having pets with families and if you can’t have one in your home, there are always options to donate or sponsor animals/pets.