By guest writer Kara Masterson

If you are a parent with a young child, the prospect of getting a pet may have crossed your mind. In many ways, getting a cat, dog or other small animal may be beneficial for yourself and your child. Some parents can’t even imagine raising their children without one. That being said, adding a pet to the family is a big deal. It’s another mouth to feed, another family member to house, love and care for (and clean up after). Especially if your children are very young, most of that burden will fall to you. So what should you know about adopting a pet before making the plunge?

Make Sure Your Child Can Treat the Animal Right

As a parent you probably know already how much kids love to grab and pull on things, and your pet’s fur, ears, and tail will be no different. If they are too rough, the animal may retaliate. Even a small nip or scratch can frighten and hurt a child. For children who are old enough it won’t be difficult to teach them how to handle a new dog or cat. Very young children, however, may not understand the right way to pet and play with an animal.

Before bringing pet home, you should think candidly about how your children will treat it. If you know that your kids play rough then take extra time in making your pet adoption choice. Spend some time at the animal shelter to get a feel for their personalities. Choose a dog or cat who seems good natured, and not inclined to nip at or scratch you. This extra time will help you ensure that your children will really enjoy their new pet.

Find a Good Vet

Just like you need to visit the doctor on a regular basis, your pet will need quality care as well. Hopefully, you won’t need to take your furry friend in for anything more than routine vaccinations and an annual checkup. If your pet does get sick or injured, however, you shouldn’t hesitate to take them to a reputable veterinarian like the Seattle Emergency Veterinary Hospital or someone similar as soon as possible. Just like in humans, catching an illness or injury in its early stages makes it much easier to treat. If you’re adopting from a shelter, you may also want to work with a vet to ensure that your new pet has all the proper vaccinations.

Can You Meet Its Exercise Needs?

Certain breeds of dogs can be very active throughout the day. Dogs can become destructive if left alone too long. They need daily exercise and attention. If you can’t commit to a daily walk or hike, it may be a good idea to get a cat or wait on getting a pet until your have more free time.

Pets Are a Forever Commitment

Before getting a pet, make sure that you can commit to it for the rest of its life. It is important to understand that it won’t always be the cute and fluffy puppy or kitten for long. If you aren’t committed to treating the animal like a member of the family, it may be best to let someone else adopt them.

Adopting a pet can be a great way to teach a child responsibility while also providing him or her with a companion. For adults, a pet can provide unconditional love in a world that doesn’t always offer that. Open your heart to a shelter pet, you’ll be glad you did.

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