Friday, 9 December 2016

What is the best pet for children?

Nothing! Full Stop! End Of!

(World's shortest blog post ever!!)

But seriously, you should never bring an animal into your life with the intention of it being solely your child's pet. If you are the adult of the household, then just like everything else in your life, the buck stops with you, the animal's welfare is your responsibility and yours alone.

"That's a bit harsh" I hear you say, but I'm afraid it's true. We all know the scenario where little Johnny begs for a puppy, promising faithfully to take it for walks, feed it, train it etc etc. Then after a few weeks or months, the shine has worn  off, it's raining outside, Johnny's friends want him to go and play at their house and any number of other 'valid' reasons why you end up looking after puppy instead of Johnny.
Now, let's ask the question in a slightly different way...

What makes a good family pet?

Ah, now we're on to something!

I'm a huge advocate for family pets, they bring immense joy, encourage socialisation, interaction and so many other benefits. They also teach us important life lessons about dependency, responsibility and death, see this recent post for more on this topic.

To my mind a good family pet is something that everyone in the family is confident to be with and handle, something you can afford to keep and look after, and something that you can give as much space and time to as possible. Whether you ultimately choose a dog, cat, pony, budgie or lizard will utterly depend on your circumstances.

Pets are not status symbols

In this world of breeding the biggest/smallest/cutest/fluffiest/most ferocious, think long and hard about why you want to bring a pet into your life. Don't believe the hype - a Micro Pig grows!! (and smells!!!), it needs to be able to use instinctual behaviours to be mentally happy and that basically means rooting things up with its nose. Persian cats have terrible breathing problems due to the highly inbred snub-nose characteristics. A tiny dog shouldn't live in a handbag. It needs to use its muscles, its nose, it needs to understand its place in the family pack or it will be anxious, snappy and uncontrollable.

Animals and birds are animals and birds, and we must dignify that, and help them to understand their natural instincts and place in life. Anything else is cruel, physically and mentally, and that is why so many 'problem' animals end up in rescues, or dumped at the side of the road every year! And don't get me started on Craigslist, Freecycle and Facebook etc, where people list animals like secondhand dvds!

This brings me on to the main point of this post...

Pets DO NOT make good presents!

I've seen some really disturbing adverts this Christmas, from big American pet shop chains, claiming that Guinea Pigs make great Christmas presents because they are low maintenance, have minimal space requirements, with prices "from as little as..."


This sends out such a dreadful message!

I have a vivid image of huge pet breeding 'farms' churning out baby guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, rats, gerbils, degus etc in their thousands, ready for the Christmas rush. Unsold ones being shunted into the 'reduced' (Adoption) section to make way for new batches of cuter, younger, more appealing babies. Ones that are bought, being sent to their new homes with undersized cages, improper care advice, sub-quality feed. And before Boxing Day arrives, the new pet has been sidelined for the latest computer game or must-have gadget, starved of attention and eventually looking for a new home.

Remember the adverts on TV proclaiming that 'A dog is for life, not just for Christmas'? Well that message applies to all pets, and apart from everything, Christmas is a terrible time to introduce any new pet into your life, they need routine, quiet, calm, time to get used to their new surroundings. Christmas is not that time! It's all wrapping paper, kids high on sugar, guests, strange food, noise, drama, or large chunks of time left totally on their own while you go off out.

Please don't even consider bringing a new pet into your life at Christmas.


If you're a fan of social media, you've probably seen this hashtag before. It's a really important little message.

If you adopt or rescue a pet, you're giving it a second chance at a happy fulfilled life. You are helping to prevent over-breeding by pet 'farms', and you are supporting a charity or rescue that can then help another animal in need. It's a win/win/win situation.

Don't think that these animals are only going to live for a short time, so there's no point. Here are the pets I've adopted over time, all living full and happy lives with us...

#AdoptDontShop Minky Russian Dwarf Hamster
Minky the Russian Dwarf Hamster, put into the Adoption section because she had been in the pet shop too long.
Lived with us for 21 months until she was nearly 2 years old.

#AdoptDontShop Pudding Guinea Pig
Pudding the Guinea Pig, given up by her owner because she was aggressive with her cage mate.
Lived with us, in a cage of her own near other piggies for 3 years, she was approximately 5.

#AdoptDontShop Sophie Syrian Hamster
Sophie the Syrian Hamster, put into Adoption section because she had a scratch on her nose that needed monitoring, and was considered too old to go back into the 'new' pet section.

#AdoptDontShop Molly ex breeding Guinea Pig Pets at Home breeding farm
Molly the ex-breeding Guinea Pig sow from Pets at Home's breeding farm. We don't know how old she was when she was deemed to old to breed from. She's been with us for one year and one month.

Emmeline Guinea Pig adopted after her mother died
Emmeline was left on her own after her mother died. she's just over 2 years old

#AdoptDontShop Molly Emmeline guinea pigs bonded for life
Emmeline and Molly have bonded for life

Doesn't this photo just sum it all up :)

So, to sum up:

  • #AdoptDontShop
  • Pet's are not good Christmas presents
  • Pets are not a child's responsibility

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