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Drew: Buying the best pet

By Samuetta Hill Drew

You and your family have reviewed and answered the questions contained in last week’s article. You are now ready to go to the pet store and purchase your pet, so which pet was determined best for your child(ren) and your family?

Some people believe a fish is a great starter pet. I had friends whose parents believed this. Most parents purchase a goldfish for their child which is actually not the best fish choice. Goldfish can be difficult to raise. A better choice for a beginner pet fish owner is a Siamese fighting fish (Betta fish). These fish are native to Southeast Asia. They are more adaptive to living in isolation, as well as in stagnant water. They do not require aerators, filters, heaters or other required chemicals.

Some of you are looking at purchasing a reptile. I remember friends who had pet turtles. The plant-eating Russian tortoise can live more than 50 years. Some snakes make good pets also, but definitely not constrictors. This snake species should be avoided. Be cautious if you’re looking at purchasing a reptile as the family pet. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against reptiles as pets for young children because they often transmit salmonella. Make sure you research the care requirements for any reptile you and your family may purchase.

Some families opt for birds as the best pet choice for their child and family. My same friends owned birds as well. Birds can be very sociable pets. Some pet store owners feel a parakeet is a good starter bird for children, if they’ve never raised birds before. Ownership typically is fairly inexpensive. More expensive birds, such as the cockatiel and the cockatoo, make great pets but require more attention than a parakeet or canary. Note all birds require daily attention.

My same friends, when they became adults, bought rodents for their children as the family pet. Their favorite choice of rodent was a hamster. Hamsters require limited space and their care is straightforward. Remember hamsters are solitary where other rodents are more social. It’s best to purchase young same-sex pairs. Regular, gentle handling promotes friendliness, but all rodents will bite if they feel threatened. Some families prefer guinea pigs because they make good children pets.

Believe it or not, my same friends as an adult owned a cat. Note none of these pets co-existed in their or parent’s home at the same time!  Cats are notoriously independent pets making them need a little less care and attention than dogs. Cats still require a commitment and require regular veterinary checkups and immunizations. Cats don’t require a great deal of space, making them a better pet choice if your home space is limited. Make sure you speak with the shelter or pet store owner about the best breed of cat for your child and family since their temperaments differ.

Well, you guessed it, these same friends own several different breeds of dogs. A cute cuddly puppy is one of the common pets for a child and family. It is important that you select a breed that is kid friendly. All dog breeds don’t make good pets for children. Some of the best breeds recommended for children are a Bulldog, Beagle, Bull Terrier, Collie, Irish Setter, Poodle, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland, Vizsla and a Golden Retriever. Before bringing your dog home, make sure it is well-socialized and comfortable around children. Any breed you select requires a great deal of time, commitment and effort. Remember puppies must be housebroken and require regular exercise. All dogs require regular veterinary checkups and immunizations. Dogs require a lot of love and affection, but they give it back in return.

My friends clearly understood, regardless of the pet type or breed, that pet ownership is serious business. Caring for a pet can be a positive experience for children. Pets provide companionship, entertainment and educational opportunities. Children need to understand, no matter what pet is selected, they are all living creatures requiring care and attention. Parents need to understand pet ownership involves an ongoing financial commitment. Adult supervision may be required to help your children with their pet interaction, so Keep an Eye on Safety, especially with younger children.