How to Plan - Prepare and Travel Comfortably With Your Pets

Whether you are traveling by air, car, train or foot, carefully consider the needs of your pet and thoroughly review the options available to you and plan accordingly. You should always consider your pet's health, safety and preferences when deciding whether to take your pet with you or leave them home with a qualified pet sitter. If your pet becomes anxious, motion-sick or does not enjoy new and different situations, especially older dogs, then the best choice is often to leave them at home where they feel safe, secure and comfortable.

Always do what is best for your pet. If air travel is involved, then leaving pets at home with a good pet sitter is usually the preferred option. When you do travel with your pet, deciding what to take is always a good place to start. Depending on the mode of travel and the length of the trip, you will need to pack any necessary medications and medical records, especially if your pet has chronic health problems or is currently under a veterinarian's care for an ailment. And the appropriate paperwork is essential if your travels take you across international borders (see the links below for specific requirements).

Then you will need the basics like food, food/water bowl, pet first aid kit, bed, leash, collar, required tags (ID and rabies), and grooming tools if your dog requires regular grooming, pet waste bags, crate, and toys (especially an interactive or chew toy that will keep them entertained). You will also need litter and a litter tray or disposable litter trays for your cat. Just in case, take a recent photograph along. It will be much easier to locate your pet if it becomes separated from the family if you have a photo to show people. And if your pet has an embedded ID chip you will need to have the phone number of the company and your account details so you can immediately contact them.

Your pet should have its own bag so you know where everything is and can grab items when you need them. Don't forget to carry some water if traveling by car, and remember to take enough of your dog's regular food for the entire trip. If you can't find the same brand on the road, abruptly changing a dog's diet can cause stomach upset and diarrhea, something to be avoided while traveling. It is always best to stick to their regular feeding schedule as well.

If you are traveling by car and your pet is unaccustomed to car travel, begin preparing in advance of any long trips by first getting your pet comfortable in the car and then take it on several local trips of increasing duration. This will help minimize the risk of motion-sickness and help it become accustomed to car travel. If your pet appears to be prone to motion sickness consult your vet. Your dog should never be allowed to ride in the passenger seat, on your lap or allowed to run loose in a moving car.

Always use either a crate or one of the available safety harnesses or other barrier systems to restrain your pets. Restraining your pet is as important to their safety as buckling up is to yours. Some states even require restraints on pets in a moving vehicle. Restraining your pet serves the same purpose as our seatbelts; they help protect your pet in the event of an accident and they keep them from distracting the driver or jumping out an open window. Restraining your pet also maintains control of your pet when you stop for gas or a snack.

Crate-training your pet at home pays big dividends while traveling Not only does the crate provide a safe place for your pet while traveling when secured to the seat or floor of the vehicle, but your pet will feel at home, safe and secure in their comfortable crate wherever your travels take you. And crates are the most effective way of restraining cats and small dogs in a moving vehicle. Your local pet store will carry a variety of styles, sizes and makes.

For larger dogs, or if your pet prefers, there are also pet restraints available that work with your car seat belts or cordon off part of your vehicle. There are a wide variety of styles and types including harnesses, seat belt attachments, car booster seats, and screens and netting that create an internal barrier in your vehicle. Whichever method you choose, make sure it fits your pet and car, is comfortable and your pet will tolerate wearing it for hours at a time. And keep your pet's head inside the car window to avoid eye injuries. Stop every two hours; this is advisable for you as well as your pets. Stretch your legs and take a walk. Be a responsible pet owner and don't forget the pet waste bags and antibacterial wipes. Finally, never leave your pet alone in a parked car. They may attract thieves and can easily become overheated and distressed even on a cool day.

Traveling by air is always stressful for an animal so visit your vet well in advance of the planned trip to make sure your pet is physically fit and don't fly your pet unless it's absolutely necessary. But if you must, always check with the specific airline carrier and ask about all regulations (see the websites below for more information). Find out what their requirements are including quarantine periods at your destination and if your pet qualifies to ride in the cabin or must be sent as checked baggage. You will need to determine the container requirements, check-in times and health documentation needs as well. Always use a good quality container in good condition; many mishaps occur every year from pets traveling in damaged or poor quality containers.

If your pet must travel as checked luggage use a direct flight and travel on the same plane as your pet. Don't travel when temperatures are forecast to be above 85 degrees F or below 45 degrees F. When you book your flight ask the airline if you will be allowed to watch your pet being loaded and unloaded and when you check-in, request that you be allowed to do this. After you've boarded, notify the Captain and the head flight attendant that your pet is in the cargo area. If your flight departure is delayed or has to taxi for longer than normal, ask that they check the temperature in the cargo area and report back to you.

Even if you know that your pet is a nervous flyer it is not advisable in most situations to use sedatives to calm them. According to the American Humane Society and the American Veterinary Medical Association, sedatives for air travel are not recommended because it is much more difficult for an animal to regulate their body temperature and maintain their balance and equilibrium if they've been sedated. Because of the altitude and temperature of a plane's cargo area pets that fly in the cargo area are also more susceptible to respiratory and cardiovascular problems if sedated.

Before any trip get your pet's papers and medications in order. Learn about the area you will be visiting in case there are diseases or hazards foreign to you and your pets. Your veterinarian can give you advice if you will need any additional vaccinations or medications. Have your vet perform a routine examination on your pet. Get any required legal travel documents (for air travel, contact the airlines for specifics that you'll need to give to your vet), make sure your pet's vaccinations are up-to-date, and get any medications your pet might need during the trip.

If you're giving your pet medication specifically for travel test them on your pet several days before you travel to ensure the dosage is accurate and that there are no adverse side effects. Depending on where you've been, another examination by your vet after your trip might be a good idea to check for parasites such as, roundworms, tape worms, hookworms, heartworms, ticks and fleas, that were picked up while you were away.

If you are traveling overseas there are very strict and detailed regulations for transporting pets. Be sure to follow the vaccination requirements exactly. You don't want your family pet to undergo any unnecessary quarantine periods. Pets are an important part of the family so be sure to take the time to plan and properly prepare them for the family vacation. By planning ahead and knowing what to pack, what to expect, and what to do each step of the way, you will ensure that your pet has a safe and stress-free holiday.

Seven Secrets To Choosing A Safe, Healthy Pet Food

Do you choose canned food or dry food? What brand? There are so many different brands, all shapes and sizes of pet food to choose from and pet owners are provided with very little information to base your decisions on (other than advertising) - it can get so confusing! Well, buckle your seatbelt depending on how much you know of the pet food industry, this could be a bumpy ride! You are about to learn seven secrets - well kept secrets - of pet food. Sit back, brace yourself, and keep reading.

Beneful says it's 'Premium Dog Food for a Happy, Healthy Dog' and sells for around $18.00 for a 31 lb. bag, Science Diet "promises" 'precisely balanced nutrition through continuous research and the highest quality food backed by your Vets endorsement' and sells for around $21.00 for only a 20 lb bag. Then there are numerous pet foods that make the very same statements - 'Premium Dog Food, Highest Quality' - that sell for $30.00 or more for a 20 lb bag. And the same holds true for cat owners...Do you choose Whiskas that states 'Everything we do is about making cats happy!' or do you choose one of those high end cat foods that make the very same claim of a happy, healthy cat but cost 3 times as much?

Now with the on-going pet food recall pet owners have questions such as 'Has this food been recalled?' or 'Is this food the next one to be recalled?'...'Is my pet safe?' Wow this is confusing! And scary too! What exactly is a pet owner to do? How about learning a few secrets! Equipped with the knowledge of a few secrets of pet food, it's not nearly as confusing.

Secret #1...

All pet foods use descriptive words like choice and premium, though few of them actually use premium or choice ingredients in their food. The 'secret' is that per the rules of the pet food industry, no pet food can make any claims or references on their label or advertising as to the quality or grade of ingredients. You see, the word 'premium' when it's related to pet food DOES NOT mean that the ingredients in the food are premium. With pet foods, premium does not (can not) describe the food nor does it (can it) describe the quality of the food. It is a marketing term and that is all. Per the pet food industries own rules and regulations, "There are no references to ingredient quality or grade" (regulation PF5 d 3). So, words like premium, or choice, or quality are just marketing or sales terms. They should not be interpreted as terms describing the quality of the food.

Now why wouldn't a pet food label be allowed to tell a prospective customer the quality of their ingredients? Doesn't a pet owner deserve to know what they are buying? This leads me to the next secret...

Secret#2...

If I can compare 'people' food to pet food for just a second, we all know there are different qualities of people food. There is White Castle (I'm guilty here, I love the little guys!) and there is Outback Steak House (another favorite). Both restaurants serve meat and potatoes. At White Castle for under $3.00 you can get a couple of hamburgers and an order of fries. While at Outback you can get a steak and baked potato for around $16.00. Both serve beef and potato - yet you already realize that there are huge nutritional differences between a fast food hamburger and a steak...right?

The problem in the pet food industry - is that most pet owners don't think in the same terms when it comes to pet food. They don't think in terms that there are fast food types of pet foods and there are sit down restaurant more nutritious types of pet foods. In fact, several years ago a young man tried this very experiment with his own diet - eating nothing but fast food for 30 days. In just one month of eating fast food three meals a day, he gained a great deal of weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels sky-rocketed. Now, imagine your pet eating this type of food its' entire lifetime.

OK, so back to our two meals...if a chemical analysis of your meal at White Castle was compared to a chemical analysis of your meal at Outback - both would analyze with a percentage of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Regardless whether you consider a steak at Outback a higher quality of protein than the burger - it would still analyze as protein. The analysis doesn't measure quality of protein.

So here is the secret...All pet foods come with a Guaranteed Analysis stating the percentage of protein, fat, fiber and moisture in the food. The REAL secret lies in the quality of the percentages of protein, fat, and so on.

In a chemical analysis of a pet food - chicken feet would analyze as protein, although granted it provides very little nutrition. And as well, a cow that was euthanized (put to sleep) because of a disease that made it unfit for human consumption - would analyze as protein although that could be considered dangerous for consumption. Both of those things - chicken feet and a euthanized cow - are allowable ingredients and commonly used in pet food. You see the secret within the pet food industry is manufacturers have a WIDE OPEN door to where they obtain their ingredients. The only strict rule they must follow is an adult dog food must analyze with 18% protein and an adult cat food must analyze with 26% protein. Sources to acquire those particular percentages range from a 'human grade' meat, to chicken feet, to euthanized animals, to grain proteins, to even man made chemical proteins and many variations in between.

Pet food labels do not have to tell - are not allowed to tell - the sources they use to obtain that required 18% or 26% protein. And to make matters worse...quality minded pet food manufacturers - the companies that use 100% human grade ingredients - are not allowed to tell customers or potential customers that their products are quality, human grade ingredients.

So how can you know if your pet's food uses chicken feet or euthanized cows or if it contains human grade ingredients?

Secret #3...

If the words premium and choice mean basically nothing with regards to the quality of pet food, and if some pet foods use chicken feet and euthanized animals in their food - how can a pet owner know what they are getting in their pets' food?

This big secret is found in ingredient definitions. Unlike 'people' food where you can pretty much look at the food to determine the quality, pet food is far different. All 'people' food must meet particular USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) guidelines. The same is not true for pet food. Chicken feet and euthanized cows are NOT allowed in people food for obvious reasons - they have no nutritional value or they could be dangerous to consume. The same is NOT true for pet food. The only way to know if those chicken feet or euthanized cows are in your pet's food is to know what ingredients they can be used in.

The common pet food ingredient 'Meat and Bone Meal' is basically a combination of many different discarded left-overs from the human food industry. Components of 'meat and bone meal' can be anything from cow heads, stomachs, and intestines, to (horrifying but true) euthanized animals including cows, horses and dogs and cats from veterinarian offices, animal shelters, and farms. And along with those euthanized animals the pet food also contains the drug pentabarbitol that was used to euthanize the animal. 'Meat and bone meal' can also contain left-over restaurant grease, and diseased (including cancerous) meat tissues cut away from slaughtered animals. In other words, this commonly used ingredient is a mix of highly inferior and potentially dangerous left-overs from the human food industry.

The pet food ingredient 'Meat By-Product' or 'Meat By-Product Meal' is pretty much the same thing as 'meat and bone meal'. It is a highly inferior pet food ingredient containing literally who-knows-what.

Another similar ingredient to the above is 'Animal Digest'.

As to the chicken feet I mentioned earlier - this item can be found in the ingredients 'Chicken By-Product' or 'Poultry By-Product' or 'Chicken By-Product Meal' or 'Poultry By-Product Meal'. Any left-overs in the chicken or poultry division - including but not limited to chicken feet, skin including some feathers, chicken or poultry heads, and intestines are found in these ingredients. It does NOT matter as to the health of the bird - sick, healthy, dead, dying...all is included in these ingredients.

So here is what you need to do...BEFORE you purchase any pet food, flip the bag over and closely examine the list of ingredients. The above mentioned ingredients would be listed within the first five or ten ingredients. If you see ANY of those ingredients - it is my suggestion to NOT purchase that food. Remember - chicken feet and euthanized animals do analyze as protein. That is all that is required in pet food - just the correct analysis.

Another little trick some pet food manufacturers use in this category is using grains and chemical additives to grain products to boost the protein percentages. Which is exactly the cause of the pet food recall that began in March 2007 - chemical proteins. Two different chemical additives - that have NO nutritional value to pets, but that analyzed as protein - were added to a grain product (wheat gluten, corn gluten, or rice gluten) solely to provide a cheap protein. Thousands of pets died and countless others became ill because no one counted on the problem of the combination of these two chemicals would cause kidney and urinary blockage. Again, their secret is the product has to analyze as having a particular amount of protein - no one is required to provide a quality meat protein.

While you are looking at the ingredient listing - you should also take note of how many grains (corn, wheat, rice) and/or how many grain products (corn gluten, whole corn, ground corn, whole wheat, ground wheat, wheat gluten, rice, brown rice, brewers rice, soy, and on and on) are listed within the first five or so ingredients. If you find more than one grain listed in the first five ingredients - that is telling you this pet food is acquiring some of its protein from grains.

Why is protein obtained from grains important for you to know? Several reasons - first off science proves that cats and dogs alike require and thrive on a meat protein. If a pet food is obtaining protein from grain sources, the pet is not getting the meat that it needs to thrive. Second, if the grain products are a corn gluten, wheat gluten, or rice gluten you take the risk of chemicals such as melamime added to it used strictly to boost the protein analysis. By the way, melamime is one of the chemicals found to be the cause of the March 2007 pet food recall. And there is one more concern with grains - aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a deadly mold that is common to corn, wheat, and soy and it's responsible for several other pet food recalls you probably never heard about. In December 2005, Diamond Pet Food contained moldy grains that killed over 100 pets before the product was recalled - all due to aflatoxin.

It is my recommendation to avoid any pet food that contains corn, wheat, or soy in ANY variation. The risk is simply too high.

Secret #4...

I've got more suggestions for you to look for in the ingredient listings...chemical preservatives. A very well kept secret of the pet food industry is their common use of chemical preservatives. BHA/BHT are very popular chemical preservatives used in pet food and science has linked them to tumors and cancer. Another common preservative is ethoxyquin which has known risks to cancer. Ethoxyquin is ONLY allowed in human food in some spices because of the very tiny proportions. However it is allowed in much higher proportions in pet food.

If you scan the ingredient listings, you will be looking for BHA/BHT and ethoxyquin listed anywhere. Commonly BHA/BHT is used to preserve the fat in the food which usually is found higher on the list. And also look for any of these chemicals towards the end of the ingredient listing. Personally, I wouldn't touch a pet food that contained these chemical preservatives. You want a pet food that is preserved naturally - common natural preservatives are 'natural mixed tocopherols' or 'vitamin E'.

Secret #5...

The very best food to provide to your pet is a well made food using human grade ingredients. That should be simple enough...How do you find that? You already know that pet food manufacturers are NOT allowed to make any statement as to quality or grade of ingredients, the only way you can find out the grade or quality of your pets' food is to call the manufacturer and ask them.

Now, let's say you call the ABC pet food company and ask the question "Is your Premium dog food and Premium cat food made using human grade ingredients?" It could be that you get the response yes, we use human grade ingredients - when actually only a couple of ingredients are human grade. Here's the trick to asking...ask them if they are APHIS European certified.

Pet food manufacturers that are APHIS European certified assures you that ALL ingredients in their pet food are human grade. APHIS - Animal Plant Health Inspection Services - is a division of the USDA. APHIS European certification provides this pet food manufacturer with the opportunity to ship their foods/treats to Europe. When importing pet foods from the US, European countries demand that all ingredients are human grade and thus require this certification. Most pet food manufacturers that have APHIS European certification do not ship their products to Europe - they simply use this as a means to assure their customers to the higher quality of their ingredients.

Again, you WON'T see this listed on the label - it's not allowed. You must call the manufacturer and ask. Often times the representative of the pet food won't even know what you are talking about when you ask about APHIS certification - if that's the case, you can assume they are not APHIS European certified. APHIS European certification is a bonus to pet owners - it is not required or even suggested that any pet food manufacturer go through the extra steps to obtain this. This is a special effort some pet foods go through to tell their customers they REALLY CARE about the quality of their products. Personally, I would NOT buy a pet food that doesn't have it.

And by the way, if you can't reach the pet food manufacturer, or they do not return your call within a short time frame, lose their number! Any company that does not place a priority on answering customers questions - doesn't deserve your business!

Secret #6...

Minerals are a required ingredient in human diets as well as diets for our pets. Copper, Iron and Zinc are common minerals found in pet foods. Just as they are - copper, iron, and zinc are basically rocks, very difficult for anyone or any pet to utilize. Science has developed several ways to introduce minerals into the body (human and pet) for better absorption thus benefiting the individual far more. This scientific development is called chelating or proteinating and it's been around for years. Through the chelating or proteinating process minerals are absorbed about 60% better than just the minerals alone.

This secret is spotting the minerals in your pet food to see if they are chelated or proteinated. Notice the minerals on your pet food label, way down on the list of ingredients. You are looking for minerals that read 'copper proteinate' or 'chelated copper'. If you see just the mineral listed, your pet is sort of like Charlie Brown at Halloween saying 'I got a rock'. If you want your pet to have the best, chelated or proteinated minerals are part of the best foods!

Secret #7...

This secret is called 'friendly bacteria'. Although 'friendly bacteria' sounds a little scary, the reason for it lies in your pets' intestinal system. A large portion of your pets' immune system is found within the intestinal system. Keeping the immune system healthy helps to keep the animal itself healthy. This friendly bacteria is similar to what's found in yogurt, however in pet food it is introduced in a fashion so that the cooking process doesn't destroy it. Looking at the fine print on your pet food label, this time you are looking for lengthy, scientific words like Lactobacillus Acidophilus or Bifidobacterium Thermophilum. If you do NOT see these words or some very similar, that pet food is not addressing the care of your pets' immune system. And again, if you want your pet to have the best, you want 'friendly bacteria' in their food.

There are your seven very secrets to help you find the absolute healthiest and best pet food for your four-legged friend. Armed with those secrets - you now have the knowledge to find your pet the best food possible! A pet food that can extend their life and prevent early aging and disease. If you don't want to bother doing the homework involved, I urge you to subscribe to my monthly magazine Petsumer Report(TM). Through Petsumer Report(TM) I've done all the homework for you - each month I review and rate over 40 different pet foods, treats, toys, and various other pet supplies. It's the ONLY publication of its' kind providing pet owners with the information they need to know regarding their pet product purchases.

I want to share just a couple more things...

It's best to feed an adult dog or adult cat two meals a day. The nutrition they consume with two meals is better utilized than with just one meal a day. If you are currently feeding your pet one meal a day, split that same amount into two meals and feed in the AM and PM.

You should know that all canned or moist pet foods are anywhere between 70% to 85% moisture. This means that 70% to 85% of that can or pouch of food is useless nutrition - its water. Granted our pets need water, cats especially tend not to drink enough water. But since all canned or moist foods are mostly water, they do not provide adequate nutrition to be fed strictly a canned or moist diet. Use a canned or moist product to supplement your pet's diet - not as the only food.

The best pet foods are preserved naturally (secret #4) - but there is a concern with naturally preserved pet foods...freshness. Take notice of the expiration date on your pets food label - typically with naturally preserved dry pet foods (not as much of a concern with soft foods because of canning - very little need of preservatives) the expiration date is one year to 18 months from the date it was manufactured. Let's say the pet food you are considering to purchase on July 1, 2007 has a 'Best if Used by' date of January 1, 2008. This would tell you that this particular bag of pet food is already 6 months old. While it is still 'good' a fresher food - a bag that is only 2 or 3 months old - is better. Naturally preserved pet foods lose nutritional potency with time. Always try to find a very fresh bag.

If you are considering changing your pets food, ALWAYS consult with your Veterinarian first. You should always keep your veterinarian advised of any changes you make with your pet. Don't take chances. And if you do switch pet food, make the change over very slowly. I always recommend to pet owners ¼ new food to ¾ old food for 4 to 7 days, ½ to ½ for another 4 to 7 days, and so on. Switching food quickly can cause intestinal disorder! Its short term, but we don't want intestinal disorder!!!

One last thing, as you are already aware dogs and cats have a far better sense of smell than humans. Their food bowl can be a wealth of smells - both good and bad. Some times a pet will refuse to eat simply because he or she smells a previous food in their bowl. Plastic food and water bowls retain odors the worst. And surprisingly so does stainless steel bowls. The best type of food and water bowl is a ceramic one. They retain odors the least.

Pets For Kids

Here are 10 Essential Reality Checks for YOU to consider when 'others' are considering the addition of a new pet to your family or household.

So you want a pet or at least your kids want a pet, well there is nothing unnatural about that, the whole idea will sound great...but wait a minute, stop and think.... there are some great positives about this idea....there are also some essential reality checks that need thinking about....a quick read through my checklists below will help you make a more realistic decision.
Remember the old saying "A pet is not just for Christmas". Someone will have to clear the 'pooh' up at the end of it .... all.

Essential Reality Check No. 1 -
The Type of Pet

The type of pets for kids you can take into your household will depend on a whole host of things such as follows:

The ages of your kids - a two year old child will probably not be able to handle a pet gently and certainly won't be able to care for the pet.....

How much will the pet costs be - not just to buy - but to care for on a daily basis?

What size of pet does your child want? - What space will be needed? A hamster does not take up much space but guinea pigs, ferrets and rats need much larger cages.

How much time do your kids and you as a family have to give to the pet?

Will your family be safe with the pet? Will the pet be safe with your family?

If you have a larger pet such as a dog, cat, or goat what effects will it have on your family, friends and neighbours?

How will your pet be cared for during your holidays.

Will your family be able to cope with the eventual death of a pet?

Some pets will sleep most of the day and be awake at night. Hamsters can be very noisy at night!

If your child wants a dog you will need to look into the breed, size and exercise needs of the dog.

Do you already have another pet, what effect will it have on that pet. For instance will your dog be OK with a cat or rabbit or bird?

Essential Reality Check No. 2 -
Ages of your Kids

You will need to decide on a pet that is suitable for the age of your kids.

For instance in most cases it would not be wise to buy a hamster for a two year old child who is still adapting to the world around them and may not know or be able to handle the hamster gently.

Do you want to give your kids some responsibility in caring for an animal. Some kids are very responsible and will be able to manage this. Other kids, well the sight of a baby animal is just too appealing, after all who can resist a cute puppy or kitten or baby hamster?

At first you may need to help your kids, as caring for a pet is a very responsible job. As a parent or carer you will always need to oversee a pet's care.

As the parent or carer you will need to decide if your child is old enough to handle and care for a pet. How often have parents heard the cry "oh but we promise we'll take it for walks everyday"
Or "we'll clean it out mum, we promise". How will you feel in a years time when you find yourself caring for the pets because the kids are busy with friends or away on a school trip or inundated with homework or just plain bored with the poor thing.

Essential Reality Check No. 3 -
True Costs of Pets for Kids

Some pets are very cheap to buy for instance hamsters, guinea pigs, goldfish. gerbils, fancy rats, fancy mice and rabbits and even ferrets.

You will still need to consider:
The cage set up (this can be very expensive when looking at the cage sizes that most pets need) in fact they need the largest cage you can manage

Food costs per week
Bedding
Vets bills if your pets become ill.
e.g. Ferrets need a yearly injection against canine distemper.
Holiday care - you will need to pay for this of course if you cannot rely on friends and family.

Bigger pets for kids such as goats, and dogs and pedigree cats are far more expensive to buy initially, some costing hundreds of pounds.
You will need to consider:
Bedding and a cage (if buying one for your dog or cat)
Leads and collars for dogs.
Food bills
Vets bills (dogs should have yearly check ups with a vets)
Toys
Holiday care (kennels can be very expensive)
Flea treatment
Ongoing veterinary costs if your pets becomes chronically ill.

Essential Reality Check No. 4 -
The Space Required

Even small pets for kids such as guinea pigs, fancy rats and ferrets need a lot of cage space for a happy life. They will need the biggest cages you can find space for. These pets also need space to exercise out of the cage.

Cats take up very little space, as do small breeds of dogs.
Dogs will need a decent sized garden as well as walks to keep them well exercised.

Essential Reality Check No. 5 -
Time for your Pets

Do you and the family have time for a pet.

For smaller pets you will need to have them out of the cage and being handled daily for at least 2 hours a day.

Do you have time to clean out your pet at least once or twice a week, or even daily?

Some pets will certainly need the toilet corner of their cage cleaned more often to avoid a foul smelling cage and pet.

Water bottles and food bowls will need cleaning and refilling every day.

Will you be able to walk your dog at least once a day? - dependent on the breed some need more!

Are you willing to look after your pets for kids for the many years some can live?
(From 18 months to 2 years for a mouse up to 15 years for a dog)

If you are out at work all day and the kids are at school all day your pets will need and will demand attention when you return home

Essential Reality Check No. 6 -
Your Pet and Family Safety

You will always need to ensure your kids safety when they are spending time with any pets.
Even little pets can bite and leave a wound.

Dogs should not be left unattended with your kids as they are unpredictable. Even a faithful dog will bite and even attack a child if they are in pain or afraid. It happens rarely - but it does happen.

You will also need to ensure your pets safety:Is your child able to handle a pet safely without hurting it.

Is your pet safe with any other pets in the home? - if you have young children and a dog .... you will need to make sure the dog cannot escape because a door is accidentally left open.

If you have a dog you need to ensure visitors safety as you can be sued if your dog bites someone on your property (or even off your property)

Make sure that when pets for kids are having free time out of cages that:
Other pets cannot hurt them
They cannot chew electrical leads
They cannot fall into toilets or baths of water.
They cannot escape through gaps in walls or floors
They cannot get outside without supervision

Essential Reality Check No. 7 -
Effects on Family and Neighbours

The whole family needs to be in agreement if you are getting pets. Pets can be noisy and messy having an effect on family living.

What effect will a pet such as a dog have on Granny who suffers with an allergy - will that mean she cannot come to visit anymore?

If you get a dog will it bark and howl when you leave them for any length of time and will this annoy your neighbours.
Will the dog bark when your neighbours are in their own garden.
How will your neighbours take to having your pet cat mess in their garden?

You will need to keep your yard free of dog mess to ensure it does not smell -particularly in summer months.

Essential Reality Check No. 8 -

Holidays and Care for Pets for kids

If you have pets for kids what will happen to them during your holiday times.

Do you have family or friends who can care for your pets while you are away.

If not you will have to pay for your pets care.

This will be expensive for dogs, cats and larger animals.

Even for little pets, holiday care can be expensive.

Essential Reality Check No. 9 -
Loss of a Pet and Grief

Some children are really sensitive and will be distraught when their beloved pet eventually passes away, or is lost in some way.

This is especially distressing if the pet has died as a result of an accident or illness.

How will you manage this?

The kids will need to grieve, grieving is a healthy part of a loss reaction. We can suffer losses every day in a small way such as not getting something we want, this causes a loss reaction and part of the healing for this is grief. If your child or other family member struggles with the grieving then look at the following and see if it applies. The grieving process has seven stepping stones through which people move. Your family member may not go through them in order or spend long on any one.

The stepping stones are:
Shock, Denial, Guilt, Anger, Depression Bargaining, Acceptance
Your child may want another pet this is called bargaining and is one of the stepping stones through the grief process.
If your child cannot have another pet, break down the hidden losses that the death of their pet has caused.
Could there be a loss of your child's self worth or self esteem.
Have they lost their only companion.
Has your child lost the only one who listened to them.
By chatting try to find out how your child is feeling and help them to work out their losses and then work through to acceptance by doing some healthy bargaining.
Would your child be able to regain their sense of worth or self esteem another way? Perhaps helping out with a friends pet for instance.

For some children it may be helpful to have a burial service, so they can say goodbye properly.

(My son kept some hair from his beloved dog)

Our kids have managed the deaths of their pets really well and have gone on to have other pets, for other kids though it has more of an effect so you will need to decide when or if to replace your child's pet.

Essential Reality Check No. 10 -
Pets for Kids are GREAT!

For the most part pets for kids are good fun. They are often good company for your kids especially if the kids are lonely.

Our autistic daughter has changed a lot since we got her guinea pigs to look after. She has gained some imaginative play, we think this is because she talks to her guinea pigs.
We do have to oversee her with them though.

Kids can learn a lot from caring for pets for kids and by having pets even when they are lost naturally.

Dogs can encourage the family out to get exercise as they walk the dog.

All our kids love their pets.