Why I Let My Children (And Me…) Get a Pet

Children and Pets

So I finally caved in and let one of my daughters get a hamster.  For years I have been saying no.  We have a dog, 2 rabbits and some fish.  I said no for years to the dog as well but caved in with him over 2 years ago.  So it was only natural for me to give in to a hamster over time.  I am not sure why I say yes but I have a few guesses:

1.  Motherhood guilt always creeps up on me.  This is usually my number one reason for saying yes to anything. What is the big deal?  It is only an animal.  They are not asking for a trip around the world.

2.  Fear of complaints when adults.  I can hear them now “You never let us have any animals”.  They will forget about all the fun things we did together and just remember that they went through childhood with no pets.  Not sure why I care but I do – I know pathetic.

3.  My own childhood memories.  My mother did let us have pets.  We had a dog that I don’t think I ever walked but I remember loving that dog so much.  The dog even had puppies – it was so much fun.  I am the youngest of 7 children so I think between all of us we had every pet except snakes.  We have so many fun stories and memories about the pets through the years so how could I not allow my children to make the same memories.

I keep telling myself there are benefits to the children.  They develop a sense of responsibility and a caring outlook for all creatures.  They can develop a bond with the animal that they look after, feed and love.  All sounds great if it really worked that way.  Here is what happened to us with the hamster.

At the pet store, 10 year old daughter pledges that she will care for the hamster 100% and never need any help.  They have one at school and she takes care of it all the time.

OK I agree.  We get a long informative speech from store worker (all I remember is take it out for the first time in the tub in case it escapes and we have a 14 day return policy for the animal if it is not what you expected).

She buys the hamster and the cage with her own money.  She names it Gladys which cracks me up every time we say it.  On the way home we giggle about how the hamster is chewing on the box. We pull in the driveway and my daughter realizes it has chewed a hole so large it can almost escape!!!!  She runs in remembering to get in the tub.  We all get upstairs and close the door tight making a total of 6 people in the bathroom and one hamster.

Quickly I, the mom, sets up the cage.  Here is problem #1: within minutes of being home I am helping when I lectured in the store that I would do nothing to help.  But I do not want a loose hamster.  Finally the cage is together.  Time to put the hamster in the cage. Here comes problem #2.  My daughter is so scared of the hamster.  She is claiming that at school it is much friendlier.  So I have two choices – stick to my plan of not helping OR help and get the hamster out of the tub.  Obviously, I pick number 2.  So I put gloves on, turn into Rescue Worker mom and try to relocate the hamster.

I get close to the hamster but I can not pick up the rodent.  It is scarier than a mouse to me right then.  I take some deep breaths and finally grab the box it is climbing on and put that in the cage. We lock it up and admire it from afar.

Now time to disinfect the tub quickly before making dinner and putting actual children in the tub (I know disgusting) – somehow I had to do quite a few things for this pet in under one hour.

Well, week one of hamster ownership continues – my daughter will hand feed it but has not attempted to pick her up yet.  Therefore, she needed help to clean out the cage (guess who helped? Yup, me again!)

Anyway, I keep checking if my daughter wants to use the 14 day clause that allows her to return the critter but she does not.  At the end of the day, I will help because I am starting to like the little creature.  My toddler just loves talking about her and visiting her cage.  I will expect my daughter to do as much as she can and feel confident she will get to a point where she can do 99% of it.

So mission accomplished.  We have one more pet memory to add to their childhood experience…”the hamster in the tub incident”.  The motherhood guilt has officially disappeared.

UPDATE 5/1/16:  Fast forward four years.  Gladys went on to live for about 18 months (average life span of a hamster according to the pet store).  And, guess what my daughter never was able to pick Gladys up.  We cleaned around her and of course, I helped way more than I should have.

Our bunnies died a few years ago.  Recently, one of my other daughter’s bought a new bunny.  I am doing much better with a hands off approach and she is basically 100% responsible for her little bunny.  I do occasionally remind her to clean out the cage but she does a good job looking after the bunny by herself.

My son has a fish tank which is the #1 best pet to get!  It is very calming and not as much responsibility as the bunny. He has learned a lot about maintaining the proper water, the filter and different types of fish as well.

Do you allow your children to have pets?  Would love to hear how you do it?  Are you able to have a hands off approach or does the pet ultimately become yours?