I will readily admit that I’m not a pet person, and I’ve just assumed that ours would never be a pet-embracing household.
Perhaps this mentality is a result of growing up on a farm, where animals were generally functional rather than decorative or recreational. As I have not lived on a farm since long before my marriage, animals have not been necessary or relevant to our lives, and I have always been pretty emphatic in explaining to our kids not to expect to have pets, ever.
This hasn’t stopped them from wistfully wishing for pets, though, as most kids do. Over the years, they’ve presented requests for pets on birthday or Christmas wish lists, or instigated conversations involving these hypothetical pets and how our lives would be all the richer for having them.
In response, I would carefully explain how pets are one of those ideas that sound nicer in theory than in practice; that very often, the novelty factor of pets drops off after the first few weeks, after which kids’ interest flags and parents generally get stuck caring for the animals; that pets are an obligation and responsibility, not to mention an inconvenience and an expense; and so on.
The well-reasoned lectures didn’t do much to dampen their enthusiasm for the topic. However, we were the gatekeepers of the household finances, and pets remained firmly off the agenda.
Until, that is, a family friend offered us their pet rabbits. They were expanding their small farm and focusing more on large animals, and knew our girls would take good care of the two bunnies. They offered the cage, rabbit run, feeding equipment, and a large quantity of rabbit feed as well—the ultimate Pet Bunny Starter Kit.
Much to my surprise, the notion struck me as viable. The animals in question:
- Did not need to come inside
- Did not require any financial outlay
- Did not necessitate any equipment or other special considerations
- Were not noisy or stinky
We researched bunny care and maintenance online, asked our friends numerous questions about their experience, and talked it over. And then we decided to go for it.
The kids were thrilled. The bunnies were a huge hit: they were predictably adorable and cuddly, and nibbled up all the household veggie scraps we could provide. To help them settle into their new surroundings and bond with their new family, we brought them inside for some designated cuddle sessions, at which they were all but overwhelmed with love and attention.
And yes, as expected, once the initial euphoria and surprise of the acquisition wore off, it became more of a chore and less of a treat for the children to feed the bunnies and move the cage. Some mornings it takes a very nudging reminder to ensure that the bunnies are adequately cared for. Nevertheless, the overall experience continues to be incredibly positive, and I’m pleased to observe the many benefits these pets have brought to our family:
- The regular need for maintenance instills a sense of responsibility in our kids. Knowing that these bunnies belong to them and are dependent on them for survival helps them appreciate the importance of being faithful and thorough in bunny care.
- Having proprietary animals around provides an excellent springboard for scientific research. Our kids have spontaneously pulled out various science and biology textbooks to look up the normality of nest-building, habitat preferences, interaction with wild rabbits, and more.
- Caring for pets has provided an introduction into a new community for us. We’ve signed into online forums, chatted with other local pet owners, and found a great resource in our neighborhood feed & seed store.
- On a more practical note, the bunnies provide excellent fertilizer for our garden and consume many of our vegetable clippings. Borderline edible scraps I wouldn’t “waste” by dumping in the compost now get fed to our bunnies instead of fobbed into stews and casseroles. Big win for our picky eaters!
We’ve all enjoyed the arrival of these furry friends. It seems that pets are a good fit for our family after all.
Photo Credit: Graphic by Anna Soltis. Following images courtesy of author.