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Best Companions for Kids

Do you wish that you had a furry friend to talk with and to be your playmate?

Cats, dogs or gerbils; companion animals as we call them, can make everything seem more fun. They can be entertaining and cuddly and they do the most unexpected things. But, they require someone to look after them every day and to never skimp on gentleness and caring.

The whole family will have to work together to feed, care for, clean up after and exercise an animal if they are going to stay healthy and happy. 

There are a few questions to ask yourself about your family before you get an animal.

  • Are we home enough to take care of him or her?
  • Do my parents want to experience a new friend in their home?
  • Do we have enough money to feed him, shelter him and take him to the veterinarian?
  • Do we have enough room for another family member?

Time, expense and space are all important considerations! And animals are unique, just like you. Here are some things to think about to make sure that both you and your new family member are happy: 

How much time do I have for a companion animal?

All companion animals require time to take care of them.

Dogs require a lot of time and exercise and play. Cats require time and attention, but they can enjoy time alone, too. It is important to realize that even rabbits, rats and guinea pigs need at least an hour of exercise each day. Fish may be a better companion for busy people, but even a fish is happier with interactions!

Can I afford a companion animal?

It can cost a lot to take care of an animal, way more than your allowance!

For example, a new puppy will cost close to $1,000 to care for if you include food, veterinary care and the many other expenses involved in having a puppy…and that’s just for the first year! Older dogs don’t need as many vaccinations as puppies, but they may need dental cleanings and medications. Even a hamster or gerbil must have fresh food, bedding and an annual veterinary exam. These things can cost more than $200 per year! 

Do I have room for a companion animal?

If you live in a small home or apartment, a Saint Bernard is probably not the best companion animal for you!

Maybe a smaller companion animal like a cat or small mammal might work well at your place. 

Adopting is a great lesson in compassion and commitment, but should never be used to teach children responsibility. A better idea is to make the care of your companion animal a family bonding experience by caring for him or her together. Many adults will love to bring their family together in this way! Adults will need to take overall responsibility for the animals and should always supervise animal care to ensure the necessary jobs are done every single day.

Listed below are some of the common companion animals you might think are cool!

Dogs

Proper care of a dog requires a good deal of time and money.

They will do best in a home that has a steady routine, where people are home on a regular basis. Dogs need regular exercise and entertainment to stay happy and healthy. Every dog is special! Some require long runs with a lot of aerobic exercise, like chasing balls, while others would prefer slow walks and a comfortable spot to chew on a nylon bone. Dogs really need a lot of personal attention from you, too! All dogs benefit from training to make sure that they have good manners, just like you! You didn't just know how to say please and thank you! So you must have patience and time to spend with your dog to help him or her learn everything. That includes things like where to go potty to how to give a high five! Your dog may also need to be groomed by a professional, in addition to being brushed by you. Because every dog is unique, be sure to decide what kind of personality you want in a dog. The Wisconsin Humane Society offers a very special match maker service to help you and your family choose the right dog personality. Click here for more information! 

Cats

Cats are great animals! They love their alone time, but they also like to hang out with you.

Cats can be wonderful family animals because of their social nature. It is always best to introduce a new cat to your family slowly and quietly. Cats need many things, including exercise, love, food, water and shelter. Family time with your kitten can be great fun with toys like cat charmers and lattice balls. Many people don’t know that there are lots of cats that like to play catch! Cats should always be kept indoors…they’ll live twice as long!

Rabbits

Rabbits are adorable companion animals, but require special care.

Sometimes, being picked up can be really scary to a rabbit and dropping or squeezing them can hurt them. It’s best to only have older children and adults picking up rabbits. Younger children can add a lot to a rabbit’s life just by providing the petting! Rabbits like the top of their head pet the best. Surprisingly, rabbits love to run, dance, jump and twirl! They like to play with toys such as cardboard boxes, tubes and phonebooks! It’s important to give a rabbit time out of their cage each day for exercise. Did you know that a bunny’s teeth never stop growing? They need extra things to chew on and unlimited Timothy hay to help control the growth of their teeth and provide them with their primary nutrition! A cage large enough for a litterbox (rabbits like to keep their environment tidy) and room for them to stretch out is a must. 

Small Mammals

Small rodents such as mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs are fairly easy to care for and are a joy to have as companion animals, especially for people with small living quarters.

If handled gently and regularly from a young age, these small rodents will be your best buddy and provide hours of entertainment. Even these small animals need exercise every day! Smaller rodents such as hamsters, gerbils and mice will enjoy exploring your home in a roll-about ball, which gives them room to roam but keeps them safe from other companion animals and getting lost. Guinea pigs and rats are large enough that they do not need an exercise ball when they come out to play. Be sure they are always supervised however, in an escape proof area! Most small animals are nocturnal and sleep during the day, getting most active at night. Some rodents will change their sleep schedule depending on when the family is active. Just like rabbits, small animals can be seriously hurt if squeezed or dropped and should not be handled by small children. Never, ever pick them up by their tails; that could really hurt them.

Parakeets or Budgies

Parakeets (also know as Budgies) can be a good choice for a first bird.

They are very social, talkative and spunky companions. Parakeets are colorful and entertaining to watch. It is very important that any bird’s cage is always kept clean. They are delicate creatures who can get sick if left in an unclean environment. Keeping their food, water and cage clean at all times is essential. Many birds can learn to talk and to perch on people's hands if you work with them patiently. These little birds can be hurt if squeezed, so be sure to limit the handling of them to older children and adults only. Make sure you keep them away from drafty windows or doors so they don't get a cold!

Fish

Did you know that a goldfish can live up to 20 years?

That’s a big responsibility, but they don't require a lot of socialization. They get their own exercise and can keep themselves company. If you’ve ever walked by a tank and found a fish following you, it’s obvious that they enjoy interaction, too! Fish need a nice, clean home and food to keep them happy and healthy. There are many different fish to choose from and each kind has their own aquatic environment needs that should be considered. They have a lot of personality and each fish is as unique as you and me! Unfortunately, fish can develop diseases and actually die from overfeeding! As with all animals, it’s important to learn everything you can about fish before you welcome one into your home.

Be sure to make the adoption of any new companion animal a family decision. You are showing great responsibility already by researching companion animals! There are always going to be things that adults need to be in charge of, like deciding who is going to help clean the tanks and cages and feed the animals. You can still be very involved in taking care of your companion animal! Don’t forget, whenever you handle an animal, no matter how well you know him or her, make sure that an adult is around. 

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