Before you adopt a pet, have your child practice with a stuffed toy

Start with a plush toy; if your child can attend properly to the toy for a week, he or she might be ready for a pet.

Start with a plush toy; if your child can attend properly to the toy for a week, he or she might be ready for a pet.

Your child keeps pestering you to get a puppy or a kitten. But will they take care of it? And for 10 to 15 years? Excellent and vital question, Mom and Dad.

Children’s enthusiasm tends to be impulsive and fleeting. If this is going to be a family pet, that’s one thing. But if you are not interested in taking care of the animal, and your child will be its primary caretaker, it’s important that the child prove he or she is responsible and devoted enough to be a good animal guardian.

Why not buy a plush animal and have the child tend to it for a week?
See if your local animal control/humane society/spca has a foster animal program (if they do, they’re usually desperate for foster homes).

If the child can attend to the “needs” of a plush animal for a week, try out the foster program.

Set out empty “food” bowls for the pet. Fill one with water, one with pretend pet food (like Cheerios or better yet, a non-food item, like paper clips or buttons, assuming your house doesn’t need to be baby-proof).

Have the kiddo set out something every day and night. Take the “dog” on walks and/or play with the “cat.” All with the understanding that if he or she can keep this up for a week, you can become a temporary foster home for a real pet. From there, you can decide whether your family is ready to embrace the responsibility of animal guardianship.

Sounds like a long process? Cats can live for 15 to 20 years. Depending on the size of the dog, he or she will live at least 10 years. A week of pretend is a drop in the pan.

Important: also factor in if you will be able to afford vet bills and pet food.

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