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Get Ready for the Responsibility of a Pet

Having a pet can be so much fun! But it also takes work, responsibility, and sometimes part of your allowance.

Have you ever dreamed of owning a pet? Maybe a dog you could play with at the park, or a cat who would snuggle with you while you watched TV. Or maybe something smaller: a hamster or gerbil you could hold in your hand, a lizard you could watch crawl around its terrarium, or a bird who will perch on your shoulder.

If you think you’re ready for a pet, here are some ways you can prepare for the big responsibility of helping care for a furry (or scaly or feathery!) friend.

Get to Know Different Kinds of Pets

There are lots of things you can do to spend more time with different kinds of animals to learn more about what makes them special and what kind would be a good pet for you and your family. Here are some ideas of how to spend time with animals before you get a pet:

  • Volunteer at an animal shelter. Adult volunteers can teach you about the animals, you can get comfortable caring for them, and you get to spend time cuddling and playing with them!
  • Ask neighbors, family, and friends who have pets if you can pet-sit for them while they are on vacation, or help them take care of the pet for a little while.
  • Visit a pet supply store when they have adoption days to see adoptable pets, ask the staff about what it takes to care for the pet, and maybe hold some cute puppies or cats!
  • Learn about and practice interacting with animals safely—how to play with them carefully, how to approach new pets who don’t know you, and what signals a pet might give you that means they are angry or scared and don’t want to be touched.

Chores

Work with your parents to make a list of the chores you’ll need to help with if you got a pet—make it a fun list by drawing a picture next to each chore of what it looks like! Decide how often you’ll need to do these chores. Some will be every day. Others might only need to be done once a week or less.

The list might include:

  • Feeding
  • Brushing and grooming
  • Going for walks
  • Cleaning out a cage, terrarium, aquarium, or litter box
  • Playing with the pet to get out their energy
  • Extra clean-up like sweeping and vacuuming if the pet sheds hair

To practice spending time on these chores and to understand the commitment, first estimate how long it will take to do them. Maybe it takes 10 minutes to walk a dog and let it out to go potty. Maybe it takes 30 minutes to clean out a bird cage or a fish tank. Maybe it takes 5 minutes to brush a cat.

Next, set a timer and do some other organizing or cleaning chore for the same amount of time. This will give you a good idea of how much time you’ll need to spend caring for a pet.

How Much Pets Cost

Pets can be expensive. There are lots of things to pay for! Your parents may not ask you to pay for everything a new pet needs, but it shows responsibility, commitment, and determination if you can help make a list of what the pet will need and how you might help pay for those things—even if it’s just buying them fun toys or tasty treats!

The list might include:

  • Food and treats
  • Leash
  • Cage, terrarium, or aquarium
  • Pet carrier
  • Visits to the veterinarian
  • Toys
  • Adoption fee or purchase price
  • Grooming tools

Pets become part of your family. They can teach you about commitment, responsibility, loyalty, love, and empathy. And they give lots of love and hours of fun back to you!

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