Does having a pet teach children responsibility?

Do you have a pet?

I resisted them for years, citing allergies, time and commitment among the chief reasons for not having them.

Sure, we’d had goldfish – the longest lasted about six weeks and I spent about ten times more than it cost on one of them on various treatments when it developed swim bladder. The poor little chap was so cute, though, I couldn’t help it.

But, after prolonged nagging I gave in and we have been the proud owners of two marvellous guinea pigs, Scamper and Squeak, for 20 months.

Meet Squeak

Has it taught the children responsibility? I hope so – they have to feed them and give them fresh water. But occasionally you’d think I’d told them to clean out a septic tank with a toothbrush when I ask them to carry out this simple, yet necessary task.

And you can imagine how thrilled they were when I told them they are old enough to clean out the cage every week, too.

Of course, this means that the amusement factor has dwindled over the months and while they are not neglected pets, they aren’t as loved as they once were.

Or so I thought.

Two weeks ago, my daughter spotted a lump on the hind leg of her piggy and she has worried about it since. That was the day before Christmas Eve, so there was little that could be done. I couldn’t bring myself to take him to the vet while the children were on their school holiday, just in case.

Today, though, I plucked up the courage and made an appointment.

The 30 minutes I spent in in the vet’s waiting room made me realise just how much value we place on our pets’ wellbeing.

An elderly woman and her granddaughter were visiting for the fourth time with their poorly cat, which was nearly 18 years old. They were cheery people and spoke affectionately about the animal and its life of Riley.

They were confident the vet would be able to give her another course of tablets and walked in with self assurance to the treatment room.

Fifteen minutes later, it was a different story: there were tears and upset. The poor cat could take no more pain and the vet advised them that their companion of 18 years (almost 102 in human years, I was told) should be put down.

Just a few minutes before, another couple were arranging at the reception desk for their enormous dog – I have no idea what breed it was, but it was as big as a Shetland pony – to have a major operation.  The concern in their voices was quite moving.

Then, a young woman came in with her dog, which was limping badly. The dog was a picture of sadness as he sat quietly in her lap, awaiting his turn to see the vet. His owner, meanwhile, stroked his back and muttered gentle words to him.

Luckily, our piggy has a cyst or tumour, both of which are benign.  I brought him home and gave him some extra cucumber as a treat (which his brother then ate). I can hardly wait to give the children the good news. I just hope it will renew their interest in the pets.

6 thoughts on “Does having a pet teach children responsibility?

  1. Dazediva

    Hi there just dropping by from the Ultimate Blog Challenge; am participating as well.

    Glad you got good news about your pet and it was just a benign cyst.

    To answer your question, I think having pets teaches a child an immense amount of responsibility. I grew up with quite a few pets in the house (dogs, birds, hamsters, & rabbits) and my siblings and I had to take care of them including feeding them on time, bathing & walking them.

    Even when I left to go to university, I got a dog, and I never spent one night out of my house because I knew I had to feed & walk him in the morning.

    Great post and looking forward to your next one 🙂

    1. Jayne Post author

      Thanks for commenting! It should teach them a lot of responsibility, of course. I’ve been guilty of doing it all when they can’t be bothered, but that stopped in the past few months. Fingers crossed the news will reinvigorate their enthusiasm for their pets. I’ll look out for your blog posts 🙂

  2. Shawn

    What a great story. I truly believe having a pet teaches children so much but I believe that the animal gives back in love and devotion 10 fold of what it teaches.

  3. Nicole Bandes

    Pets teach children responsibility, work ethic, empathy and compassion just to name a few. It is an important step in a child’s life and I’m very glad you didn’t deprive them of this wonderful opportunity!

    Glad to hear the little guy is doing ok.

  4. stymaster

    Personally, I don’t think a house is a home without a pet. As a child we had fish, gerbils, and a dog, and as an adult I’ve had rats and cats. It is terribly sad when they die (or disappear…), but the love and companionship they bring more than compensates.

    I think pets teach kids responsibility and compassion: When I was old enough walking the dog each night was my responsibility, and it was one I enjoyed: a dog (and, believe it or not, a cat, judging by the one on my lap now) can be a great companion.

    1. Jayne Post author

      I’m glad we got them, too. Especially now they are old enough to clean out the hutch – makes them realise that you have to work at being responsible for something/someone! Thanks for commenting


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