I’ve always been a pet person, so entering into parenthood for me was just an excuse to relive all of my own childhood pets again, and then some. I thought I’d do a brief rundown of some of the best and worst pet experiences I’ve had or heard about so here goes…
Like many couples, we initially bought a dog to practice our parenting skills upon. This turned out to not be very reassuring as our Labrador Bronson ate the whole house, including that plastic-handle-thingy on the washing line. For the first 12-months of his life I often felt like surrendering him to the pound and I fearfully delayed getting preggers because the pound doesn’t seem to accept babies.
On Christmas day we had the extended family over for lunch and as we gathered in a circle around the lounge to open presents, Bronson appeared centre stage eating what somebody thought was a piece of crumbed chicken. He devoured this mystery snack with a 360-degree audience and I remember vaguely thinking, “I didn’t make crumbed chicken”. A nanosecond later as Bronson gulped down his tasty treat, it hit me, both the smell and the answer to the Great Schnitzel Conundrum. It was crumbed, but, it wasn’t chicken. It was from the kitty litter.
So dogs. My verdict is:
Dogs are: high maintenance; smelly; dirty; destroyers of stuff; poop machines; eating and rolling in gross stuff; flea and tick magnets; dander dropping (except those labra-spaniel-oodle things they kind of have woolly stuff); annoying barking; humping things.
Pro: Kids love, LOVE, LURRRRVE dogs. You should totally get one.
Bunnies (including Guinea-pigs):
Cons: Low IQ (hence the insult dumb-bunny). Bunnies are basically poop dispensers. They are cute and if you want to teach your child about death, get a bunny; they seem to die within months of purchase. My friend had (past tense) a bunny. Rather tragically, on Easter Sunday, it went missing and when they opened the hutch there was an enormous python in there with a bunny shaped lump in the middle.
Most times bunnies die of natural causes or that common Mixup-my-toes-us disease. I knew a family whose bunny passed away in such a manner and they buried it before the kiddies got home from school to spare them grief. The flaw in this great plan was that when said kiddies arrived home from school, the dog had dug up, disassembled and distributed bunny throughout the backyard.
Another friend’s dog killed their bunny (insert bunny-killer in the above con list for dogs).
Conclusion: Bunnies are not smart or strong, but serve well for teaching about the circle of life. <Insert soundtrack>
Fish/Tadpoles and Yabbies
Also ‘Circle (and cycle) of life’ pets.
Pros: Kiddies gain knowledge of funerals, esp. toilet-flushing water burials. Cons: You will be stuck cleaning out the tank.
Hermit crabs and Tarantulas
I can’t think of any pros, sorry. My youngest was determined to have hermit crabs and when we presented at the pet store I nearly fainted from the cost of the setup (aquarium, heat mat, sand etc). As I contemplated taking out a personal loan, the sales-assistant lifted one out of the tank and presented me with what I thought was a huntsman spider dangling out of a shell. I muttered the words, “NO, just – NO”, grabbed my kids’ hands and jerked them sharply out of the store.
My friend’s son had a tarantula called Larry-Meatloaf who lived (and died shortly thereafter) –also in an aquarium. No pros there either. **Circle of life alert** which I will hereafter refer to by the acronym ‘COL’.
Cons: They have no fur; expensive setup AND you need to apply for a freaking reptile license, what a hassle.
For the reptile experience, I recommend you catch a skink from your backyard. We did, (his tail fell off in the process) and we kept him in an old fish tank. Within three days he’d grown his tail back and laid two eggs, which looked suspiciously like (but weren’t) Tic-Tacs. We also renamed him from Larry to Larissa.
The girls watched the eggs with enormous interest. 5yo Hannah was expecting a baby lizard, whilst 3yo Claire (bound for disappointment) was expecting a chicken.
Pro: Was slightly interesting.
Rats and Mice
Mice are stinky, scared little creatures that serve no purpose other than to be a kind of cat entertainment show. I mouse-sat for a friend one time and arrived home at night to find my cats had broken into the cage and decapitated all inhabitants. It was the middle of winter and I was concerned they might freeze to death if I left them outside. The good news was they didn’t freeze to death and the bad news was – an awkward ‘COL’conversation for my friend to have with her kiddies (although she was actually quite relieved if the truth be known).
I have a big ol’ soft spot for rats. They’re smart, they’re affectionate and they’re entertaining. Our first rat bit me when I picked her up, but only because multiple pink-shiny-baked-bean rats were dropping out of her uterus. I too would object (and possibly bite) anyone who picked me up whilst giving birth.
We were able to move on from there and develop a great relationship. The only issue was my young children (2 and 4) kept letting them out of the cage and at one point they disappeared for three days. After giving up all hope, I eventually found them nesting in my wardrobe, where they’d eaten holes in nearly all of my clothes and chewed through a tube of superglue (wth?? I know!), but they seemed genuinely healthy and happy to see me. It was about that time that I decided to re-home them on Gumtree.
The best thing about rats is making them toys out of recycling and changing their cages around to make new and cool ramps and hidey-holes. I purchased the Taj Mahal of rat cages; it took me three days and two migraines to assemble. I’d defo get rats again. ** COL ** warning: they are prone to tumours and only live two years. Some people think they have creepy tails.
I think birds can be good value, and if your house isn’t adequately covered in seed-husks, then definitely get a bird to amend this. I never really did the bird thing with my kids, I always felt too guilty about keeping them in a cage. We did have chickens for a while there, and they are surprisingly fun and affectionate. We purchased a large coop and called it ‘Cluckingham Palace’ it housed three chickens that we named Ethel, Sunday (last name Roast) and Patricia. They provided a lot of entertainment and food!! However, they did dig up the yard rather badly. We had more divots than a golf course and you couldn’t go out back without either twisting your ankle in a hole or stepping in a steaming pile of chicken poop. **COL**
Cats are the perfect pets. I’m trying not to be biased here, please believe me. Cats are not needy, smelly or dumb. I can’t think of a con.
This article may seem a bit skewed to my own preferences, but I can’t see how you can go wrong with getting a lot of cats. (My daughter adds unless you’re allergic, but then just get one of those hairless ones). I hope this informative article has saved you the time and trouble of making future pet mistakes.
*Written for http://www.childblogger.org