|"Little Duck" tickling Danny under his chin.
When I was a child we had cats, dogs, tropical fish, a couple of budgies, terrapins, gerbils and a succession of hamsters. Not all at the same time I hasten to add, but there were always at least 3 pets in the house. I loved them, especially the dogs-who at times really did feel like my best friend. I always thought that as an adult I'd want dogs, and that I'd let my children have caged pets like we did.
In fact, we currently don't have any pets in the house. We have lots of fish in our pond and two cats who live outdoors- a tortoiseshell called Ripley, after the character in Alien, who last year had three kittens, one of which, Ash, we still have. It was a great experience for the boys watching the kittens grow from little blind bundles of fur to fully fiesty creatures who ran up the curtains and generally caused even more mayhem than the kids. The boys learned to handle them really gently, although Zac took longer to learn this lesson than Danny and was more inclined to tease them. I was surprised and a bit sad that he didn't automatically treat them carefully, but the kittens were pretty robust and in the end I was glad that Zac had had the message about looking after living things thoroughly drummed into him!
|Just too cute!
Our other pet of choice has been ducks. They are pretty easy to look after, have bucketloads of character, and duck eggs are delicious! We'd kept ducks before the kids were born and when I was a week overdue with Zac we got a "White Duck" as a temporary baby substitute! As he ended up being born three weeks after my official due date she had this role longer than we expected! Zac and White Duck developed a special relationship! He really loved her and she was extremely tolerant of him and let him carry her around the garden.
|She splashed me!
|Do you really want to drink that?
The Christmas before last we hatched out two chocolate runner ducklings in a very basic homemade incubator. The process was trickier than we thought and quite a few eggs came to nothing, but the boys learned loads from watching the embryos develop inside the eggs (you could put a torch to them in the dark and see what was going on inside) and the two that successfully hatched bonded really well with the kids and were again a source of great entertainment.
The boys were happy to help feed and water the ducks, they could shut them up at night and let them out in the morning, and they loved to collect the eggs once the girls were laying, so they also learned a bit about the responsiblity of looking after animals, tho we were all less keen on the mucking out aspect!
|Run boys- here come the girls!
|I can see you!
Despite the cost and the hassle of pets there's no doubt they bring benefits for kids- seeing the cycle of life and death; learning to care for something living and understanding that it is a permanent responsibility- you can't just forget to feed them; having a friend who doesn't judge you or fall out with you; getting outside and active with them; I definitely think it's worth it. If you can't face having pets of your own you can always spend time with friends or relatives who do, or if you only want something free and temporary, you can always have tadpoles or a very furry caterpillar!