Just Say 'Yes' To Childhood Pets

by Rita Templeton
Originally Published: 
Elena Sherengovskaya / Shutterstock

I’m one of those people who can’t imagine life without a pet, which is why we have our own little household zoo of dogs and cats…and a turtle named Figgity Foo Foo. I’m a sucker for a stray; a wet nose is my weakness. Whether an animal sports fins, feathers, or fur, it’s sure to find a place in my heart (and if it’s cuddly enough, a place on my bed, much to my husband’s chagrin). Don’t come near me with a homeless kitten or give me a sob story about how you can’t keep your pregnant guinea pig any more, because I will dissolve into a puddle of mush (and my husband will file for divorce — he has a different idea of what constitutes “enough pets” than I do).

Yes, they’re a lot of work. But the benefit to our family is so great that it makes all the work worthwhile, kind of like the kids themselves actually. So if you’re thinking about adding a pet to your household — or if you’ve got a partner like mine who requires a little extra convincing — allow me to point out a few perks of being a pet owner.

They’re hilarious and adorable.

Bazillions of animal videos on YouTube can’t be wrong. Ever seen a pug puppy prancing around in a sweater? A cat contentedly massaging a sleeping dog? Even if your pets aren’t exactly viral video material, they’ll make you laugh and say, “Awww!” on a regular basis.

They teach valuable lessons in responsibility.

Pets may not require the same level of care as, say, a baby, but they’re still living, breathing beings, and you’re responsible for their every need. Kids can help with fulfilling those needs, and it teaches them what it’s like to care for something and the importance of being consistent.

They’re good exercise.

Okay, so you won’t get a lot of cardio from watching a fish circle a bowl, but if you’ve got a pet of the more interactive variety, just a few minutes of playing with them or taking them on a walk can be great for you both. Looking for a way to get your kid’s nose out of a screen? Have him play fetch with the dog. They’ll both come inside panting.

They provide comfort.

There’s a reason why animals are used in therapy: They’re amazing sounding boards. You can spill your dirtiest secrets to get them off your chest, or cry your ugliest cry, or be as petty as you wanna be with zero fear of judgment. A pet isn’t going to air your dirty laundry behind your back — they’ll just lie in it. A pet will never tell you you’re being unreasonable or stupid, even if you totally are. They’re on your side, unconditionally.

They teach patience and tolerance.

Like children, pets aren’t perfect. They have their moments, especially when they’re young, and yes, they might chew up your favorite purse or have trouble remembering that pee belongs outside. Or they may have lasting issues you didn’t exactly count on, like health conditions that require special care. But just like you wouldn’t give up your kids because they’re acting like jerks or need a little extra assistance getting through life, you can’t give up on your pet. It’s a perfect way to teach your children the importance of being caring and compassionate no matter what and the meaning of a “forever home.”

They’re great icebreakers.

Topics of conversation may not come easily to some people, especially kids. But get them started talking about their pets and kids light up. Dog parks or even just walks around the neighborhood are a great way for your entire family to meet new people and fellow pet owners, with whom you automatically have something in common.

They eat stuff off your floor.

Spilled a few bits of cereal? Dropped an ice cube but too lazy to kick it under the fridge? Don’t wanna drag out the vacuum? Whistle for the nearest dog. You’re happy, they have a treat — problem solved!

Pets are a commitment to be sure. But just think of it as you would any other relationship: You may have to put up with a little crap, but it’s a small price to pay for someone who thinks you’re the best thing that ever happened…even after they’ve smelled your morning breath.

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