Ask anyone if single parents should adopt a pet and you’ll receive a slew of opinions. On one hand, pets are a great source of companionship for kids and can teach them responsibility and selflessness. In fact, they might even help kids cope with the stress of their parents’ separating or loss of a parent according to the University of Florida. On the other hand, pets cost both money and time – resources that many single parents have in short supply. However, while challenges certainly exist, it is possible for a single parent to run a successful household with both pets and kids.
Some pets require more time and energy than others. That doesn’t mean families need to forgo their dream dog and get a goldfish instead, but it does mean parents should be mindful about the pet they bring home. Since puppies require constant supervision until they’re housebroken, they’re a poor choice for a household with only one adult. Senior dogs require less training and exercise, but even a one-year-old dog will be much easier than a puppy. While kittens are likewise more difficult than adult cats, the disparity is smaller. And since some adult cats don’t enjoy the company of children, adopting a kitten may help everyone get along.
The age of a pet affects not only its training regimen, but could also affect the costs associated with bringing it home. Adult animals may have lower adoption fees than a puppy, perhaps. That could save families a few dollars, which can make a difference especially for single-income households.
You can also lower the cost of the pet by looking at shelters. There are many good reasons to adopt a shelter pet, rather than “shopping” for a pet. Check out this article from Your Dog Advisor (whilst this is US based, these reasons apply to pets from all over the world – including Australia!
While other pet-related expenses are more spread out, and therefore more manageable, they still add up. According to Moneysmart, the average household with a dog spends $1,400 a year, whilst a cat comes in slightly lower, at $1030 per year. This includes items like food, vet care, health items, grooming and boarding but doesn’t take account of things like pet insurance, or the cost of an unexpected accident or illness that can cost thousands. So an important consideration is to look at your budget over the long term when you are considering bringing a furry friend home, so that you can be sure you can meet your new pet’s needs over time.
After the perfect pet is adopted and brought home, it’s time to manage the day-to-day realities of living with an animal. The most challenging pet-related chore for single parents is exercise. Dogs need a considerable amount of activity every day. Cats, while lower maintenance, also need play and training in order to be a well-rounded family pet. And while kids may promise to contribute to walks and play sessions, they may lack the maturity to handle such a big responsibility on their own. Set aside dedicated time for walking the dog or playing with the cat each day. Doing the activity as a family lets parents meet their pet’s needs while also connecting with their children and teaching responsibility. If it’s affordable, a second pet provides a playmate while the family is away during the day.
Finally, consider how a pet will add to household chores. Even the mellowest of pets will create messes like muddy paw prints, shed fur, and pet waste. Engaging children in pet-related chores relieves time-crunched parents of some of the burden while also promoting good habits that will serve children well as they grow. Assign chores like cleaning the litter box, scooping waste out of the backyard, and washing pet toys, bowls, and beds. Alternating which child is responsible for which chore creates a sense of fairness.
There’s no denying that pets are a lot of work, but they can also be an incredibly worthwhile investment for single-parent households. Children who grow up with pets have documented benefits in self-esteem, compassion, and non-verbal communication, among other positive effects. And that makes the extra effort worth it.
Author Bio: This article has been contributed by Daniel who is a single dad raising two children. At DadSolo.com, Daniel aims to provide other single parents with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.