I grew up around lots of different kinds of animals and I really want my kids to have the same kinds of experiences I had as a child. I think caring for animals teaches kids a lot about responsibility, life (and sometimes death), and compassion. Over my childhood, my family had countless kittens and cats, numerous dogs, indoor and outdoor fish, various birds, mice, a ferret, turtles, and hamsters. I had friends who had iguanas, lizards, gerbils, and guinea pigs.
One issue we are facing is that I grew up in a very rural area while my children are growing up in a suburban area; this makes owning pets a lot more complicated as there is less space and more rules (city and HOA) concerning what pets you are even allowed to have! Of course we visit petting zoos, the zoo, pet stores, and the aquarium often, but there is just something different about OWNING a pet and spending extended time with the animal.
I have spent a lot of time researching the best pets for kids and trying to choose which pets are right for our situation and our kids’ ages and personalities. Finally I have found a great solution to the very best pet for kids dilemma: volunteer pet-sitting!
The Very Best Pet for Kids
It started when I began researching good pets for kids and came across guinea pigs. Would they be a good pet for our kids? Would our kids like them or would they lose interest? Were my kids old enough to responsibly care for a guinea pig? I personally had never owned one before and had limited experience with them myself. Then I remembered one of my husband’s coworkers owned a guinea pig. The next time I ran into him, I told him we would love to pet sit for his guinea pig if he ever had a weekend he needed someone. Low and behold about two weeks later, we got to pet sit for an extended weekend!
The week before we were to pick up Reeses, the kids and I read up about guinea pigs – where they come from, what their behavior is like, what to feed them and what not to feed them, how to hold them. We watched YouTube videos to see guinea pigs in action and to listen to the cute piggy sounds they make. The kids were well-educated on guinea pigs and confident pet-sitters before the guinea pig even came to our house. We had a blast playing with and caring for Reeses!
The kids learned to hold him, how to feed him and what foods he liked best (green peppers, leafy greens, and apples were his fav!), and all about his behaviors (how he mostly liked to hide in his igloo house but how he would come out to beg for food in the mornings at his feeding time). I got to observe how my kids behaved with the animal and how responsible (or irresponsible) they were when it came to caring for him.
What I learned from the experience was that a guinea pig would probably be a great pet for us at this point. But I also learned, we had a GREAT time just pet-sitting. We got to experience owning a pet for a brief time and then returning him to his owner. If it hadn’t been a great fit, the positive is that there is an end in sight. It’s kind of like a trial period; if you love the pet you are pet-sitting for, then you can seriously consider getting that kind of pet, or if you dislike the time you have that pet, cross that one off your list! Obviously you have to remember that animals are individuals and no two will be exactly alike, but it does give you at least some experience before jumping into a totally unknown situation. And maybe the very best pet for kids is just experiencing lots of different pets via volunteer pet sitting!!
Other great things about volunteer pet-sitting?
- It allows the owner of the pet a free place to keep their pet while they will be gone, so usually it is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
- You can “try out” a wide variety of animals as pets, so instead of being locked into one pet that you own, you can experience owning lots of different animals for a short time.
- There is probably nothing for you to buy, as the owner will send along all bedding and food you need for the pet-sitting period. We did provide the fresh veggies for the guinea pig we were keeping, but we expected that we would and had a great time doing it!
- You can work out all the details with the pet owner before you agree to take in the pet, so you are all comfortable with the arrangement.
- It gives you a real-life reason to do some research about that particular animal with your kids; you can even create some homeschool assignments from it if you desire.
- It might even allow your child a chance to try out owning an animal that you would not want as a long term pet (like perhaps a tarantula, a lizard, or a snake!)
For us, it really was a great situation. Just be sure to work out all the details with the pet owner ahead of time, and be prepared to give lots of time and attention to the pet while you have him!
Tip: It’s also helpful (but hopefully not needed) to have a worst-case-scenario plan in place just in case the pet gets sick or injured while in your care so you know the owner’s wishes.
Have you done any volunteer pet-sitting or animal fostering? Tell us about your experience!
We are looking forward to many more pet-sitting adventures in the future!!
Check back tomorrow to see a cute and simple “thank you” card idea your children can create to give to the owner after the pet sitting adventure is over!
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