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As a parent, you want to be able to give your kids everything that they want in life.
Unfortunately, giving your child everything he or she wants is not always in your child's best interest and caving in at your child's every whim is almost certainly a bad idea. You don't want to deprive your child though, so what do you do when your little boy or girl comes up to you with those adorable little brown eyes and asks you for a puppy or a kitty (or a ferret, parrot, snake, alligator, etc.)? With a household pet comes many responsibilities, and you as a parent are likely the one to decide who takes those responsibilities initially. Will you refuse your child telling them about the inherent duties of having a pet? Do you point out that having a puppy requires you to pick up after the dog, take it for walks, feed it twice a day and so on? This will probably be your initial reaction sure, and the child's initial reaction will be to assure you that he/she will take care of those duties, they'll feed it, walk it, play with it, give it all the attention it needs and love it like no puppy or kitty has ever been loved before. Well, you, being a loving parent rather than a heartless gargoyle, can't keep up that wall of resolution indefinitely, so, whether it is the next day, the next week or the next month, eventually you are going to cave and adopt that pet for your child (though hopefully not the alligator). Then you begin to notice a couple weeks have gone by and the amount of care given the pet by your child seems to be waning while you suddenly seem to be doing all those things your diabolically cute offspring promised you to do. You can't nag the child forever though, or perhaps you can, but in the meantime you'll have a scrawny little pet two days away from starvation and a backyard lined wall to wall with pet doodie.
So now YOU are the primary caregiver and you silently curse the adorable brown eyes of your devil spawned young. So the answer is to not adopt a pet right? Not necessarily. There can be a compromise for you and your child. And the compromise isn't to share a dog with two other families so that you have it on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the third Sunday of every month. No, you can get your child a real life actual pet. And what pet can you get your little bundle of joy? Consider getting him or her a hamster (either one syrian or two dwarf hamsters). Why hamsters? Hamsters are a fantastic pet for kids depending on the type you adopt (Chinese Hamsters tend to be jumpy and are thus not a good idea for small children). Hamsters are small and furry and never lose that degree of cuteness that a child covets, secondly, they are so easy to take care of they are practically automated (notice that I said practically). Hamsters don't smell that strongly either, they may smell stronger than a cat (unless your cat frequently pees on your bed or on the living room carpet) but they aren't nearly as stinky as a dog can be. What's more, they are almost like a toy in that they can be played with and cuddled and handled and then when the child is done with the pet they can be put back in their cage where they can play and entertain themselves (the hamsters not your children). Of course a hamster is not free of responsibilities, the cage needs to be cleaned weekly or it will begin to smell, of course hamsters need to be fed, and they should get adequate attention if you expect them to be friendly and tame to your family and friends. But the amount of energy (and money) you and your child MUST expend to take care of a hamster is far smaller than that of a larger animal such as a dog, and they don't shed like cats, they are quiet (though their exercise wheels may not be), and they are just a joy to handle and have around. So when your little boy or girl comes up to you and begs you for that cute little puppy in the pet shop tell them maybe later, but for now, let's start a little smaller.
Andy Markison is an illustrator, graphic designer, animal lover and pet owner living in Germany. His website, ZapGraphix.com, sells fun and humorous pet related merchandise.
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