Thinking of introducing a new furry family member? Pet ownership can be a wonderful experience. Pets bring so much joy into the lives of those around them, and they can even teach children a few valuable lessons along the way!
Studies have found the benefits associated with pet ownership for children to be far-reaching. Aside from the more obvious lessons in responsibility and empathy, pets of all shapes and sizes can also help promote a child’s emotional, social and physical development:
An animal’s companionship can provide emotional support for children – easing anxiety and offering unconditional comfort.
Children who are given age-appropriate tasks relating to looking after a pet, such as laying out fresh water, demonstrate higher self-esteem.
As well as the health upsides of being active whilst walking and playing with a dog, several studies have shown that kids with pets have a decreased chance of developing allergies. Petting an animal lowers cortisol and increases serotonin and dopamine levels, decreasing stress levels and improving your child’s mood.
Your child’s peers will likely own pets too – giving them something to talk about and relate with.
Things to Consider
For all the good that pets inject into our lives – we need to return the favour! Owning a pet is a privilege and with it comes some newfound responsibilities. Be honest about whether a pet will fit into your family’s lifestyle: if you are running around looking after small children, will you have the time (or energy!) to do the same for a pet? If your pet gets sick, will you be able to cover any veterinary expenses? Are you prepared to make their care a part of your day-to-day life? These questions all need to be carefully considered before inviting a pet into your home.
Pet insurance is not available on-Island, so preparation helps avoid tough decisions. We recommend that pet owners regularly put money aside for unexpected pet emergencies.
Responsible Pet Ownership T&Cs
Caring for your pet extends beyond the day-to-day. There are some key pet ownership guidelines that pet owners standby in Cayman which prioritise your pet's health. These include:
Micro-chipping: Micro-chipping is a painless one-off injection, placing a tiny chip in the scruff of the neck. This will help identify your pet if it gets lost and is essential for travelling overseas.
Immunisations: There are some core vaccinations that all dogs and cats need to have – DHPPL for dogs (Distemper, Adenovirus [Hepatitis], Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis) and FVRCP and FeLV for cats (Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia, Leukaemia). There are also some non-compulsory vaccines, including for kennel cough (Bordetella) and rabies. Consult with your vet about your pet’s requirements.
Spaying & Neutering: Spaying and neutering is shown to increase longevity and health in pets and should occur when your pet is 4-6 months of age. It also reduces over-population and homelessness on-Island. It is strongly recommended that owners get females spayed before their first season.
Heartworm Prevention: Heartworms are a widespread and potentially fatal disease affecting dogs and cats in Cayman, spread by mosquitoes. The use of monthly preventatives, in the form of chewable tablets, is recommended.
Flea & Tick Prevention: Fleas and ticks are common in Cayman and regular prevention is highly recommended.
Pet Food: A good quality diet reduces risk of metabolic disease and helps pets live longer, healthier lives. Avoiding raw food diets is strongly recommended in households with young children.
General Health: Familiarise yourself with your pet’s ‘normal’ behaviour and demeanour. Make a point to check their body weight, teeth, nails and coat regularly. An annual check with your vet is important to stay on top of their wellbeing and immunisations.
The good news is that you can take small steps before you commit entirely to adopting a pet. The Cayman Islands Humane Society offer a range of volunteer and fostering opportunities and they always welcome families coming by and spending some time with the cats and dogs.