It is a truth universally acknowledged that most children adore animals. Watching their faces light up when they spot a bird in the garden or see the animals in an aquarium or zoo can be an almost magical experience for us as parents, but even though the thought of bringing that joy into our homes in the form of a family pet is certainly a tempting one, it can also be quite daunting if you’ve never owned an animal before.

When my children were growing up, I definitely found myself in the latter frame of mind. I knew I wasn’t in a position to take on the extra responsibility of taking care of a four-legged friend, nor was pet ownership a particular desire for us as a family, so it wasn’t something that ever happened for us. It wasn’t until my youngest moved out and I ended up stumbling upon the opportunity to adopt my cat, Mo, that I came to realise quite what I had been missing out on all those pet-free years; now, I simply cannot imagine life without him!

As I’m sure most pet owners will probably agree, bringing any animal into your family, whether it be on the larger side of the spectrum like a dog or cat, small like a goldfish, or any of the many wonderful creatures in between, is a definitely a huge (and often long) commitment that brings with it a long list of pros as well as cons.

While no two families are the same and only you will truly know if introducing a pet into your life is the right choice for your family, I thought I’d share some of the key considerations you may wish to make before settling on a decision below:

Financial Considerations:

No matter what kind of animal you have, pet ownership isn’t cheap. Your initial outlay will vary dependent upon your choice of pet and where you’re getting them from – ie. adoption fees or purchasing costs – plus any paraphernalia you need to get started. After that, there are lots of other additional ongoing costs to think about, too; from bedding and food through to insurance, veterinary costs and boarding fees, the costs do add up over time.

If you’re in a tight spot financially at the moment or think you may be in the future, now might not be the right time for you to take on a new four-legged friend.

Physical Considerations:

Depending on the type of pet you’re thinking of having, there are some physical things you may want to give some thought to ahead of time. For example; where will their bed/hutch/tank need to go? How often will they need exercising? Will you need to take them in the car anywhere – if so, will they fit safely? Will you be able to leave them for any length of time, and if not will this pose restrictions on your activities?

There’s also the matter of cleaning up after them, of course, which is never the most pleasant of jobs!

Emotional Considerations:

Although it’s not a nice thought and not something that gets discussed often, one very important thing to consider is the emotional impact of your pet eventually passing. Hopefully, your pet will have a long and happy life with you, but they almost certainly won’t outlive you or your children; sickness, accidents and age are a horrible reality to have to face for anyone, but if you have particularly sensitive children they may find this quite difficult to deal with.

While some of the points I’ve raised above could be seen as ‘negatives’ that might be a little off-putting when laid out all at once in this way, only you will be able to assess whether the impact of them on your own personal circumstances will be too big or acceptable, especially when considered alongside the (in my opinion, very long) list of positives on the other side of the coin:


Emotional Benefits:

As I discovered upon adopting Mo, having a pet brings a lot of joy, fun and unconditional love into your life and the lives of your children. Your animal companion is always happy to see you, often affectionate, and always there to cheer you up when you’ve had a bad day, even though they can’t speak.

They can also help combat feelings of loneliness, which is especially important if your child has had to be homeschooled unexpectedly due to sickness or extenuating circumstances, and can be a real source of comfort for children; the act of stroking a cat, for example, can be incredibly soothing and calming, helping to regulate our emotions.

Physical Benefits:

If you have a pet that needs regular exercise, such as a dog, this is a brilliant way to get the entire family more active. Instead of seeing exercise as a chore, you and your children will be able to use it as an opportunity to explore the outdoors and visit new places as a family, which is good for your overall health and mental wellbeing; a total win-win.

There are other health and mood benefits, too. For example, having a pet has been scientifically proven to reduce our blood pressure and the levels of cortisol in our bloodstreams, thus reducing our stress both mentally and physically. Playing with our pets has also been shown to boost our production or serotonin and dopamine, which are effectively happy hormones, and this can help combat feelings of depression and anxiety in both adults and children.

Mental Benefits:

Having a pet is a great way to teach your child about responsibility and help bring in more of a routine to your days at home in a positive way. By actively engaging in the acts that go along with caring for your pet, such as cleaning them and feeding them, your child will build confidence in themselves and might also feel a sense of ‘purpose’ or being more ‘grown-up’ by adopting the role of caretaker for your animal.

It’s also a brilliant opportunity to spark interest in subjects your child might otherwise not be too excited about, without them even realising they’re learning. For example, you can set them a little fact-finding task to discover where the animal originated from, its natural habitat, its diet, if it has any related animal species… I’ve even heard parents teach their child about biology by identifying different parts of their dog’s body and explaining what it does!


Although there are a lot more positives to pet ownership, I’m not going to touch upon them here; some may not apply to your family, while others need to be experienced first-hand in order to be fully understood.

For me in my current circumstances, having a pet is absolutely wonderful. Mo is my little shadow and has brought so much joy into my life right from the very first day I met him. He has completely changed my perspective on pets and, for me, the list of ‘pros’ far, far outweighs any of the ‘cons’ that had previously deterred me.

Should you assess everything and decide you’re happy taking on a new addition to your family, I hope you and your children find the same joy and love in your animal companion as I have in Mo. The experience truly is one of a kind!

That said, I now know for certain that having a cat wouldn’t have been right for us as a family when my children were at home as it would have been too much of a commitment to take on given our circumstances at the time.

If you find yourself in a similar position where the timing simply isn’t right for you to have a pet or you don’t feel comfortable with the restrictions having one could impose on your lifestyle, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! It’s much better for both you and your potential pet to shelf the idea than it would be to go through with it despite not being fully committed and end up regretting it.

Until next time,