Finding the Right Age for a Pet

By Natasha Polak
For Local Pet Services

Whether you are a first-time pet owner, or someone who has had several pets throughout your lifetime, you are faced with a major decision when looking for a new one: how old should he be?  No matter their age, all pets have the potential to be a good fit.  So in determining how old a pet you should adopt, consider the following:

  • Do you have any children in the home?
  • What kind of energy level do you have?
  • Do you have ample finances?

Young Pets and Families

While not always ideal, many families opt to rearing a pet from young to coincide with the ages of their children, so that the goal is to have them “grow up” together.  This works in that you typically may have more energy at that phase of your life to devote to the care of a young pet alongside your infant or toddler.  It also allows your child to become acquainted with animals at an early age, thus preventing a fear of them, but also enabling both children and animals to learn how to “play nice”.  Older children who are ready for the responsibility of a pet can also benefit from rearing younger (and often smaller) animals as their first pets.  Overall, since pets and children don’t stay young forever, you will eventually see them through those early stages where they need correction and training.  Once they are past that, your work gets a lot easier.

To have a young pet, however, DOES require ample time on your part.  And a lot of patience.  If you are already spread thin from your hectic lifestyle with raising your family, chances are it will be even more stressful for you to cope with a young pet’s needs and keep him from potentially harming your young children (unintentionally or sometimes out of self-defense).  Because of a young pet’s high energy level, he can be more anxious and prone to aggression if you are not keeping a watchful eye on him, so you have to be even more vigilant in keeping all interactions between your pets and youngsters supervised.

Older Pets and Families

Older pets may be better-suited to your young family, simply because of being more mellow in temperament.  You may not have to worry about your toddler getting bitten by the dog or scratched by the cat.  Plus, since they have already been trained and house-broken, you can focus more on rearing your children while spending time with your family and pets without the added hassle.

What you do have to worry about with an older pet is caring for him as he becomes sick from various ailments in old age.  This is expected, whether you raised him from young or adopted him as an adult and now have young children in your home.

If you adopted a new adult pet for your family, you have the added element of the unknown in what he would do in reaction to your children.  Was he abused?  Abandoned?  Certain things may trigger him to become aggressive, afraid, or depressed.  Here, again, you will have to be vigilant in how you allow your pet and children to interact.

Pets at Any Age

Pets whose care does not vary by their chronological ages would include fish and caged rodents.  They make great additions to families of any size and age, without you having to spend time training them.  The only drawback would be their shorter lifespans.

If you don’t have any children, or yours are grown and moved out, certainly pets of any age can fit your lifestyle.  You may find that a young pet keeps you more active (which may be an added bonus for helping you stay fit!).  Or, a senior pet can be the calm you need in your golden years, offering you companionship regardless of how mobile you may or may not be.

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