Sunday, January 2, 2011

Educating Children Through Pet Ownership

Caring for a family pet provides many benefits for children. Studies show that children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma. It is also known that playing with a pet may help lower blood pressure and require fewer visits to the doctor. Children who own a pet get outside more and are able to reduce stress and anxiety through their relationship with their pets. Children who are learning to read often feel more comfortable reading aloud to their pet. Sharing love and caring for a family pet brings a family closer together and encourages childhood responsibility.

There are many different pets to choose from. Dogs and cats make wonderful pets and we all know the advantages and disadvantages to both choices. Its fun to think outside the box of traditional pets such as dogs and cats and look to other types of animals.

Our family includes a ferret, fish and one very spoiled Budgie. We live with an interesting combination of amphibian, bird and mammal and it has given our preschool-aged son a hands-on lesson in science.

Ferret Ownership
Our ferret Guiness is teaching our son what it means to be a mammal from Mustela putorius furo group. Ferrets are domestic animals, cousins of weasels, skunks and otters. (Other relatives include minks, ermines, stoats, badgers, black-footed ferrets, polecats, and fishers.) They are not rodents. Ferrets are crepuscular which means they spend 14–18 hours a day asleep and are most active around the hours of dawn and dusk.

My son learns a lot about what it means to be patient as he waits for his friend to wake and play. Since ferrets are smaller in size than a cat or dog, learning to play with a ferret teaches children to be gentle and careful.

Ferrets are known to suffer from several distinct health problems. Among the most common are cancers affecting the adrenal glands, pancreas and lymphatic system. Our ferret currently suffers from adrenal gland disease which requires a monthly shot. Caring for him is teaching our son compassion and he learns a lot from our monthly vet visits. Keep in mind that this disease is unfortunately very common in ferrets and presents itself as early as 2 year of age. It can be a costly disease to manage so research before making your decision to add a ferret to your family.

Ferret Central is the best online resource I use. Its best to research owning a ferret thoroughly prior to adding one to your family.

In Massachusetts, the best veterinary office for ferret care is Angell Animal Medical Center. Massachusetts Ferrets Friends ia a great resourse to ferret owners as well.

Our fish, Blue Paxton the Third teaches our son about caring for a friend that lives in a completely different habitat. Not being able to touch or play with the fish has brought on some creative interactions between the two. Blue Paxton is a Betta fish, very easy to care for.

We are the proud owners of a very spoiled Budgie named Ziggy. A Budgie is a parakeet. Living with Ziggy has been great fun for my little aviculturist. Ziggy tolerates being handled, is easy to care for and has developed a vocabulary that includes "pretty bird." She is very bonded to the whole family which she views as her flock. Most hand-fed Budgies are very sweet natured and will gladly oblige!

I recommend that you purchase a hand-raised parakeet. We got Ziggy from Peaks Parrots in Middletown, CT and could not be happier with her!

Backyard Chickens
Would love to add backyard chickens to our home. Found this resource for those of you who are also in the process of researching!

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