Kids love pets particularly if their parents do, too


March 06, 1993|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

If your child has been begging for a pet, researchers say it's normal.

Aline and Robert Kidd, San Francisco Bay Area pioneers in the study of the effects of companion animals on children, have found that the desire for a pet is almost universal. In one of their many studies, 99.3 percent of children ages 3 to 13 reported wanting a pet of some kind.

In another study, the Kidds found that nearly all children surveyed said they loved their pets and also enjoyed animal-related books, TV shows and movies.

It should come as no surprise that children most interested in animals have parents who cherish the bond between people and pets.

As a parent, this calls for a careful examination of the messages you send your children. Too many people get a pet on an impulse and discard it at the first hint of inconvenience.

The best decisions about pets are made after careful consideration. If you're not sure what kind of pet -- if any -- will fit into your family's life, try getting a preview of what it would be like to care for a small animal.

Classroom pets such as rats or turtles may spend the weekends at the teacher's house, since unheated or uncooled weekend schools are bad for their health. Your child's teacher may already send such pets on weekend visits, or might be willing to start once you've convinced him or her that the animal would be cared for properly. Or your child may be able to care for a friend's pet while the family is on vacation.

A trip to the library is always a good idea and can help whet your child's appetite for reading. While the animal is in your home, be alert to potential problems or annoyances -- from allergies to smell. If everything goes well, both you and your child will be better prepared to pick out and care for a pet.

Above all, consider the example you're setting as you deal with the animals in your family. Use your children's natural love for pets to nurture a respect for all life that will serve them well as adults.

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