We are deeply embroiled in the Great Pet Debate of 2016 at my house. The kids want a pet. I think they all (including my husband) might like a dog, but I am pretty dead set against that. A cat has been floated as a compromise. My kids liked the new kitten their cousins got. My 9-year-old observed what was involved in feeding the (indoor) cat and dealing with the litter box. He has assured me he would take the lead on these tasks.
I am really not a pet person. I don’t like animal hair on things, or the smells. I also suspect that, children’s protestations to the contrary, I would either wind up nagging or doing a lot of the pet care myself (one reason the dog is out. They really need a lot of care.). I’m also somewhat worried about my toddler’s ability to deal with an animal, and the pet’s ability to deal with the toddler. This morning, I left the 5-year-old and toddler in the kitchen while I went to the bathroom. They appeared to be calmly eating their waffles. Two minutes later my daughter was calling for me. The story is that the toddler wanted to feed the fish, so my daughter opened the jar of fish food for him. He pulled over a chair to the counter, and proceeded to dump the entire jar of food into the (small) tank. I tried to “fish” out what I could but I was on my way out the door to the airport, so G (nanny) tried to rescue the situation. Unfortunately, the word via text message is that the fish may not have survived being transferred to new quarters while their tank was being cleaned.
So, there’s that. I’m curious if readers have thoughts on pets — particularly cats, or maybe there’s an alternative? — and at what age children can be expected to assume at least partial responsibility for living things. The kids have been asking for a long time. Back when my husband and I had found out we were having a fourth kid, but hadn’t told the kids yet, he jokingly asked them “Which would you rather have, a dog or a baby brother?” They all answered dog.