Pets at Home?

I guess I knew the day would come. It was always going to come at some point after all, but now we’re going to have to think about it and work out a carefully calculated response… My daughter came home from pre school today and asked if she could have her own bunny rabbit. I’m lucky that at this point, upon a little bit of probing, it’s not a fully thought out request. The conversation went a little bit like this:

Evie: “Mummy, Daddy, I’m nearly a big girl now aren’t I? I’m nearly four! (No pause for an answer) I’m nearly four, and you said when I was a big girl I could have a real rabbit (little recollection of this on my part) (still no pause for breath). I know we’ll have to keep it in a house in the garden and when it poos I’ll have to take it out, but I know I’ll have to wear gloves to do that, and bunnies like carrots, don’t they Mummy? Mummy are you listening to me?”

At this point, my husband intervened, and my mind was set at ease temporarily as it emerged she felt the best name for her real pet rabbit would be ‘Boingy’ and she would wait until we could get her a pink one.

The conversation did however fill me with dread. I don’t hate animals at all, completely the contrary. Having grown up in a tiny hamlet, with three working farms around me I am quite used to being around animals. My parents also had at one point during my chilhood, 3 dogs, 2 cats, 12 rabbits (they were told they had 2 females, but were incorrectly informed!) and 30 chickens so I’ve had my fair share of pets too. I’ve been vegetarian since I left home too as I hated it when the cows or pigs suddenly weren’t in the fields any more because they’d gone away to meet their fate. It upset me so much and I still hate to think about it even now.

Despite my love of animals however, I was rubbish at looking after them, in fact my beloved rabbit ‘Beatrice’ (not sure how or why I came up with that name) had in fact been dead for a good six months before I realised. I was about 13 at this point too, so really should have had some sense of responsibility. I must add that my parents did care for this rabbit and they were fully aware she had gone to pet heaven, they just didn’t tell me because they were waiting for me to realise and then acknowledge that perhaps I hadn’t been the most diligent pet owner, although I think I even shocked them with how long it took for this revelation!

My husband is even worse. He definitely not an animal lover, and has no problem eating them whatsoever. His sister’s rabbit got attacked by a fox when he was younger and he has regaled the story on more than one occasion of how he actually slipped over on said rabbit, almost ‘wearing’ it like a slipper on his way to get his bike to ride to school.

I know that now I am a responsible parent, I wouldn’t forget to feed a pet, and after seeing and dealing with pretty much every variety of poo that exists in the human form, I think I’ll be fine cleaning out the pets as well. The trouble is, I personally don’t really want to have a pet. We’re out at work a lot of the time, they take up a lot of time and money, and I get so attached, that although I know they bring you a lot of pleasure, the sadness I’ve felt when they have died has always been far more overwhelming.

At what point is the right time to introduce your children to this? I know that aged four, my daughter won’t understand the full extent of the responsibility that having a pet entails, but does this mean it’s wrong to not give her the opportunity to begin to understand this responsibility? This really is an issue where my husband and I as parents, have to be completely selfless, but also sensible. Is it right to bring a living creature in to the house on the potential whim of a four year old? Or is it more selfish to not bring something into the house that can be a rewarding life experience for our children just because we are not too keen?

I’d love to hear your opinions, especially if you’ve dealt with this situation. I always knew it would happen. I starved myself for three hours aged 8 in the hope it would get me a hamster, then ran away to my garden packing only my teddy and a spare pair of pants in my bag in protest, but judging by my poor Beatrice’s fate 5 years later, I’m confident that my parents did indeed make the correct decision when they said no!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kate Chem
    Jan 29, 2011 @ 14:51:51

    Get a fish. Easy(ish) to look after, I’m sure you can get all kinds of sparkly pink things with which to decorate the tank, and not too stressful if it goes to the great big toilet bowl in the sky. And if it goes well, you can think about ‘upgrading’ to something fluffy!


  2. Trackback: 6 Reasons Why I’m a Bad Mother… « itsamumsworld

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