Should Kids get a Pet as a Present?

. December 1, 2015.

When asking experts “should kids get a pet this holiday season?”, the response is overwhelmingly yes, with the caveat that a pet should not be given as a present.  “We caution people not to give pets as gifts as the recipient may not be happy about that,” said Wendy Welch, marketing director at the Humane Society of Huron Valley.  When your whole family is ready to make the commitment to a furry friend, it can make the best addition to your home. If you adopt from an animal shelter, you will even be saving a life.

The key is to figure out what you want. “We work very hard to make the best matches between people and pets; for instance, some animals require grooming and others do not and some animals need very little exercise, or exercise themselves, while others would love to be your fitness partner,” said Welch. Remember, if a dog or cat is not your cup of tea, there are other options like rabbits, gerbils, birds, lizards, horses and chickens depending on your situation. “We emphasize that bringing an animal into your family is a lifetime commitment. In addition to food and water, animals require medical care, attention, enrichment,  play and of course, love,” said Welch.  

Consider your lifestyle

Many variables come into play when choosing a pet. “Consider the adults, children and other animals who are part of the household as well as their ages and personalities, the level of activity and noise or lack thereof in the house, the space you have and the level of responsibility you are all willing to take on,” said Welch. Be sure nobody in your family has allergies to fur or dander and discuss in advance who will be the animal’s primary caretaker. The adoption process itself is quite easy. “We are happy to help you find just the right match,” said Welch. You complete an application and if you already have pets there may be a supervised interaction required to see that the two get along. Often times, adoptions happen the same day.  

Pets are good for you!

The benefits of adding a pet to your family this holiday season are numerous. “Studies show that kids who grow up with pets have fewer allergies and they tend to become more compassionate, caring adults,” said Welch. Some kids contribute at a higher level than others as far as caretaking. “Depending on the child and his abilities, he can be taught to care for the pet under the supervision of an adult, who should always be the primary caretaker,” said Welch. The National Institute of Health found that pet ownership is good for psychological growth and development as well as physical health. Their research showed that when kids were asked who they talked to when they got upset, the most common response was their pet. Therapists and researchers from the National Institute of Health also found that sometimes pets encourage kids with autism to interact better, which in turn may help with their interactions with people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that most households have at least one pet because it can increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities as well as socialization. They also reported that pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness. There is also the benefit of unconditional love from having a pet as a companion. There are always activities in the community that welcome pets — visiting the local humane society is sure to brighten your day.