The Benefits of Having a Family Pet: All of Your First Pet Questions, Answered

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When 10-year-old Molly needs a pick-me-up, she spends time with her cat and visits her chickens—separately, of course. “If I’m lonely, they make me feel happy,” she says. Studies show that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring much happiness to their humans. So, will this be the summer you add your first pet to your family? 

When’s the Best Time To Get a Family Pet? 

When considering a family pet, there are certain factors to consider. Dr. Lori Polkowski, DVM, CVA, CCRT, says pets can be an excellent addition to any family but it’s essential not to bring one into your home on impulse. Two details you might think about are ensuring you have a stable living situation that allows pets and that you aren’t planning on moving soon. Consistency builds trust, which is why Polkowski also suggests waiting to get a family pet if you’re going through significant changes like a new baby or job. This is so you’ll be able to focus attention on your pet’s needs when they first join your household. 

What Are the Most Kid-Friendly First Pet Options? 

“Sometimes the first pet picks are animals like hamsters, rabbits, rats, and Guinea pigs,” Polkowski says. If you and your family are drawn to these smaller furry friends, read up on their specific needs. For instance, did you know that pet rats are highly intelligent and need daily interaction and exercise with their pet parent? Did you see the part that said rabbits are social animals, so they’ll feel lonely and depressed without a companion? Knowing these fun facts and other information about diet, lifespan, and what type of space is required can unlock clues to finding the best pet for your family. 

Are Dogs Good First Pets? 

“I love our dogs because they’re really playful and take care of us when we need it most,” says Richard, age 9. A magical connection can happen between a child and their pet. So, if you’re looking to bring a dog into your home, Polkowski gives some points: Consider the size, activity level, and breed characteristics. For example, larger breed dogs can be difficult with small kids due to their size. We also have to consider the pet’s point of view because we don’t want one too small or fragile that the child could hurt. All in all, a good dog for a first-time pet owner is a dog that matches the energy level of your household.

How Do I Choose a Family Cat? 

Choosing a cat that fits your family’s lifestyle doesn’t have to be as mysterious as what their many “meows” mean. Polkowski suggests finding a cat that has been fostered. “The foster parent will have a better idea of what the cat can tolerate, such as kids, dogs, and other cats,” she says. The foster parent/organization will also be able to tell you about the cat/kitten’s temperament and character. When 13-year-old Jude thinks about his cat, he says, “I always think about the nights where I fell asleep next to my purring, fluffy friend. My cat will always have a special place in my heart.” Another route to take when looking for a kitty is to check out different cat breeds because they all have different temperaments.

Why Are Pets Important to Families? 

Are you working on teaching your kids about feelings and how to express them? “Our pets can teach empathy, kindness, responsibility, and unconditional love,” Polkowski reveals. She says that petting a dog can decrease your stress hormone (cortisol) levels and increase your happy hormones (oxytocin). If you still have questions about which type of pet is perfect for your crew, Polkowski suggests reaching out to a local vet to discuss your best options. 

Sharing space with pets can contribute to your happiness and add more fun and connection to your family. When asked what 5-year-old Sai loved most about his family pets, he says his dog is super, super, super-nice, and likes to be hyper with his kitty-cat. Mostly, though, Sai says, “I love them.” 

Tags: Family, Pets

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Written By

Tonilyn Hornung

Tonilyn is an author and freelance writer who lives with her husband, young son, many furry friends, and never enough closet space. See Full Bio

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