It is often argued that having a pet can be beneficial to a child in a variety of ways, not least the fact that they tend to develop a far more caring attitude – and that applies towards other people as well as the animals in question.
If a child has a pet and is taught how to look after it, the responsibility that brings is also usually instilled into other areas of life.
Children have also been proved to be brighter intellectually, as well as more cheerful in disposition, if they are pet owners.
But what kind of pet are we talking about here? Dogs, cats and hamsters spring immediately to mind. But what about ants? We can hear the response to that suggestion now. “Ants? You must be joking! They’re just pesky, troublesome, irritating insects that should be kept out of the house at all costs – even if it means blasting them with killer spray”.
But have you heard of an ant farm? In days gone by kids used to love them. And they really are a great source of education. If you don’t learn the value of hard work and a team ethic from a colony of ants you never will. You do need to keep them very carefully and securely housed, but otherwise a child will benefit from watching these industrious insects set about their tasks – and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
Still sceptical? How about a leopard gecko then? If your child has shown a particular interest in and liking for reptiles, and you are on the look-out for a pet that is still a little bit out of the ordinary, then this small, docile, interestingly-marked creature could be just the job. Children can handle and play safely with them – but they should be warned that if they are not careful the tail can come off! You will have problems trying to glue it back on, but don’t worry, it will grow back on its own, although not quite like the original.
Mice are nice and some say rats are better than cats – whichever takes your fancy. And we are talking about the fancy variety here. Anyone who has had either a mouse or a rat as a pet will tell you that they really are very sweet little things – and they claim that they actually form a relationship – a bond if you like – with their owners. They are very sociable – so much so, in fact, that they are so much happier and more likely to thrive if they have at least one mousey or ratty companion.
Still looking for something different? How about a goldfish then? If you don’t want to spend a lot of money then search no further. All you need is a bowl filled with water – although you do need to remember to clean it out every so often! Like mice and rats, goldfish like company, so better to have a couple swimming around rather than one. If you want to upgrade eventually, then transfer to an aquarium to give them a bit more space. And bear this in mind as well. Goldfish can live up to 25 years, so they will grow up with your child.
So much for the less common pets. After that it’s back to the hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs and cats, all of which have their own appeal – as well as their pros and cons – and may well be more suitable for your family.
Finally, a pony is another ideal pet. But you need time, space and money to take care of a pony properly – and there are not too many parents who have all three of those commodities on tap. So maybe it’s back to the ants…