Tuesday, 8 July 2014

First Pet for Children

If I remember correctly, I got my first pet - a baby chic when I was still living in Hong Kong. She (or he?) didn't survive as we were staying in a flat, and we haven't got the faintest idea of how to look after it. When I became older (still a teen), I got myself a couple of hamsters, who stayed with us for a very long time, including their babies, and their babies' babies. I also started keeping hamsters as pets when I moved to the UK, so naturally we bought a hamster as Abby's first pet, although we might have made a mistake there.

The cutest and fluffiest ball ever!
Abby was only 2 years old when we got Hammy. The only problem was that Abby was still too young to look after him and didn't really play much with him as he's a bit untamed and gets too excited when he's out. Then we had Clay, and we were so busy that we couldn't spend as much time with him as we'd like to.

When he passed away, it was heart breaking for all of us including Abby. She was still too young to understand death, and has constantly asked us when Hammy will come back from Hammyland (even though she burried him in a box and then in our garden) and that she missed him.

Top left: school of Platinum and Gold Tetras    Top right: Abby's yellow guppy
Bottom left: My black guppy        Bottom right: Pregnant shrimp
We know now that there is a lot to consider when you get that first pet for your child. A pet is not a toy that you can just pick up and play with, and then drop it and move on to something else. They are like another child that you need to look after and spend time with (to play, not just maintain and keep them clean). You need to train them, no matter how small that animal is (Hammy bites), and you have to think carefully before booking that Sun, Sea and Beach holiday. Then comes the moment when they die and your child is still too young to understand death. Can you handle it? Can they handle it?

Bearing that in mind, we thought of getting a fish tank instead of another small animal as our next pet. We have thought about it for a good 2 years before we decided to go for it in February. It was a little bit more technical than we have anticipated, and there were so many things we had to cover as we wanted a tropical fish tank (pump, filter, thermometer, water, etc). It's good that there are lots of information on the Internet to help us, and most aquarium shops like All Pond Solutions act like a one stop shop, so we didn't have to look around and get all flustered. 

We were really glad that we went for the aquarium. The hardest part was to keep it clean, and you only change water once in 2 weeks so it's much easier to maintain than keeping a small animal as a pet. Travelling is less worrying as you can get an automatic feeder that feeds at set times, and space isn't a problem as well as you can keep many fish in a tank. As long as they aren't the nippy type, they can live together harmoniously too. We let Abby take part in choosing ornaments for the tank and the fish, and she was really happy about it. Both kids will stand in front of the tank for ages just to see how their pets are doing, and they always fight over who gets to feed them.

Me and hubby's aim weren't really the fishes, however. We wanted mini shrimps, and lots of them!  They look so cute and comes in all sorts of colours! We have at least 3 pregnant ones now, so it's exciting times for us!

I definitely think that fish or other sea creatures are the best first pet for children. They aren't fluffy and you can't really touch them, but it's the easiest way of teaching children about respect and responsibility, before they move on to bigger animals. You can always go for the most basic tank and keep it as cold water so it's easier to look after. And they are pretty to look at too! When it comes to death, as the fish live in the tank, there is less bonding with them than with a huggable animal, which is good in some way.