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Onlies and pets - come tell me about yours

(27 Posts)
stickygotstuck Sat 09-Feb-13 13:11:08

Hello All,

I have a 4 YO DD who looks set to be an only.

Now, DD has always gone through phases of finding it hard to go to sleep at night. She always takes one or two favourite teddies with her and that's her main comfort. But lately she's been saying she wants 'real people' as she does not want to be al alone in her bedroom sad.

Now, this is the first time I've ever had second thoughts about not having a second DC. There is a VERY slim chance we may try for a second but I cannot stress the VERY enough. Age is not on our side and we found the first 3 years so tough that I doubt we could cope. She did go through a few months of asking for a sister when her friends started having brothers and sisters, but she seems to have accepted that there'll be no siblings.

However, I am wondering if having a pet would be a good idea.
What would you suggest? What pets do your onlies have?

The issue is that we need something that is easy maintenance. DD loves tortoises and plays with her cousins' terrapin when we visit, but theirs roams around free in their yard as they live in a hot climate and we don't have the space/funds for a terrarium etc. so they can come out of the water here. We also will be spending a few weeks a year visiting family abroad, so things like dogs (which I'm not keen on) or cats (which DH is not keen on; him and DD love dogs) are out of the question. We don't have family who could take them in and cannot possibly afford kennels for two weeks at a time (plus I don't like the idea of them...). Oh, and something fur-free would be great! grin

So, any hope for us?

If you have an only child, I would be interested to know if you got them a pet to 'make up' for not having a sibling. And did it 'work'?

MoelFammau Sun 10-Feb-13 01:00:18

Yes it works. My dog arrived 4 years before DD so it's not quite the same situation, but my dog definitely helps her understand that she's not the centre of the universe. She helps feed the dog, helps walk her... I think it's good to teach her to care for another living being.

Pets but not dogs or cats... Hmm.

A friend's wee lad (3) has a budgie. Another friend's kids (2&5) share an aquarium.... Another 2 year old has stick insects....

Guinea pigs and rabbits are popular... Um.

stickygotstuck Sun 10-Feb-13 08:40:16

Thanks Moel,

I think the resposibility of looking after it would do her good.

But we are picky, I know. I am thinking guinea pig. Are they easy to put in a cage and pass on to neighbour/unhelpful relatives to look after for a week at a time?

SoftSheen Sun 10-Feb-13 08:59:28

Guinea-pigs are nice pets for young children (you need to get a pair as they are unhappy by themselves). If handled regularly and gently, they can become very tame and are a good size for a younger child to pick up. They are relatively easy and cheap to look after, though you will need to invest in a good quality hutch and outside run so they can have time on the grass. Some people do keep guinea-pigs indoors (especially during the winter) but they will still need regular exercise. A lot of people on the Super Furry Animals thread keep guinea-pigs and they can advise you.

Rabbits are less suitable as they are not usually very keen on being picked up (with a few exceptions) and are a bit big for a child to handle. They also require a lot more space and are more difficult/expensive to look after (require neutering and vaccinations like a dog).

Whatever you decide remember that the animals will be your responsibility for their lifetime (several years for guinea pigs) and that children very often get bored of pets after a few weeks/months!

SoftSheen Sun 10-Feb-13 09:03:37

You could also consider gerbils, they are friendly, easy to look after and can be kept in a cage/tank and passed to a friend to care for during holidays. Lots of fun to watch too!

stickygotstuck Sun 10-Feb-13 21:04:40

Sorry, been out the whole day!

Thanks SoftSheen,

I didn't know there was a Super Furry Animals thread, I'll check it out, thanks!

When you say a pair of guinea pigs - can we have two females, or do you mean a mating pair?

Gerbils I hadn't thought about. Would you say they are easier to look after than guinea pigs?

MoelFammau Sun 10-Feb-13 21:14:12

Hamsters are fun to watch. Active wee things.

Mibby Sun 10-Feb-13 21:21:15

Rats are better for small children than hamsters, theyre awake more in the day and more friendly.
A pair of GP just means two, not a breeding pair, I doubt you want extra ones every few months! Two girls are better, two boys may fight once they are mature

fanoftheinvisibleman Sun 10-Feb-13 21:25:08

Ds is 7.

We had a cat for 10 years before he was born and he died last year. I'd say they tolerated each other to be honest.

We got a hamster pretty much straight away. He is great fun and very tame. But he does nt make a companion pet to be honest. Ds loves him but the time he sees him is measured in minutes weekly.

I know you don't want a dog but that is what has plugged a furry sized gap here. Pup is not quite 7 months but they have a good bond. They do the one boy and his dog thing skipping off in the woods together. It was hairy in the early days though. I also wouldn't suggest a dog without all family being 100% comitted which it sounds like you are not. Our lives pretty much revolve round the dogs needs first. It has been stinking weather here today and we still had to trudge round the wood, like it or not!

stickygotstuck Sun 10-Feb-13 23:29:44

Thanks for the suggestions.

DD has no interest in hamsters - too small! And I hear what you say about sleeping habits. Not sure about rats.

DD is mad about dogs. I could put up with one but unfortunately we cannot commit at the moment. I think we'll go look at some guinea pigs, see what her reaction is. I am beginnig to think a sibling might be easier grin

Lonecatwithkitten Tue 12-Feb-13 13:58:51

We got our dog when DD was 6 (she's now 9). She refers to him as her little brother and he sleeps on the spare bed in her room.

LtEveDallas Tue 12-Feb-13 14:14:32

Again with a dog I'm afraid smile

We had a rescuse JRT X when DD was a baby, then a Mutt, then a Rottie.

The Mutt is still around and is DDs very best friend. She tells her all her secrets, cuddles her when she is sad, plays with her constantly and pretends to be a dog on a regular basis.

Otherwise, rats definately - as long as they are young when bought so can be handled constantly. Rats are fine as single pets.

No to rabbits, house or otherwise. Lovely animals, but not good for children.

Hamsters are pretty boring as they sleep all day and then make noise. All. Bloody. Night. (Can you tell I have experience?)

Guinea Pigs, yes but again get them very young, get two at least and handle them every day.

stickygotstuck Tue 12-Feb-13 22:01:15

Thank you lonecat and LtEve.

Dogs seem to be the way forward, don't they? I know DD would love one, she has been pretending to be one for over 6 months now, and has numerous toy dogs. But we cannot commit, I'm afraid.

But good to hear it's worked for your onlies. It's really worrying me now. Both DH and I had made up our minds to stop at 1 DC. I don't know if DD's current loneliness is a normal stage she'll get over. I hope it is sad.

redlac Tue 12-Feb-13 22:05:09

Do not get a hamster they are nocturnal and my wee brother had one and it kept the whole house wake at night wee fucker

We have a only DD and a dog but the dog was here 7 years before DD and the dog is very much the boss

Southwestwhippet Tue 12-Feb-13 22:08:19

My DD is just 3. I never planned an only but it is looking that way. We have lots of animals however and she does play with them in a similar way to how I remember playing with siblings. She loves the dog but by far the best pets are our fancy rats. We have three, she carries them around, talks to them, plays games with them and puts them in her dolls house etc.

They are incredibly tame and come when called so if they end up running loose on the floor it doesn't matter.they are also very gentle and tolerant whilst being robust enough to be suitable for little hands.

One of them is completely hairless which isn't for everyone but I love her. I bought them from a proper breeder so they had been handled from birth and arrived already very tame. They have only got more confident with age. Cannot recommend them highly enough. Every only child needs a rat for a friend.

stickygotstuck Wed 13-Feb-13 09:53:04

Thank you redlac, so hamsters are a definite no then. Glad to hear it, I can't say I like them much.

Southwest, I am very surprised at how highly recommended rats come. I hadn't thought of them, I don't think they are an obvious choice! Do you have to have more than one, or are they happy on their own? LtEve, you said they are OK on their own, aren't they?

Would love to hear from other positive experiences of pets as 'substitutes' for siblings!

Southwestwhippet Wed 13-Feb-13 10:09:55

Rats are highly intelligent, hence you can litter train them in their cage and teach them tricks and to come when called. They are very social animals though so it is actually really cruel to keep them alone, it also puts a lot of pressure on you to interact with them every day if they don't have a companion.

If you are interested in rats, do a bit of research first. They are easy to care for but the fact that they are so clever means they really do need attention from their owner and a good stimulating cage environment. This is why they make such good pets I think, unlike a hamster which just wants to be left alone, rats love your company. They do take a bit more responsibility though, not as much as a dog, but more than the average furry critter.

Buy from a breeder, not a pet shop as there are loads of gorgeous colours you won't see in a shop plus the babies will already be tame so you can enjoy them straight away. Boys are more placid than girls although a little more odour as they scent mark. Rat forums are great for finding out more info.

LtEveDallas Wed 13-Feb-13 11:07:12

Oh I always had 'only' rats, but then I played with them every day and they only really went into their cages to poo and sleep. My last rat pretty much had the run of the house!

Her cage was downstairs and I would go down in the morning and take the lid off. She would run up my arm and sit on my head. I'd then shower, and SocksRat would come with me! She was litter trained, had a food maze, liked to sit on top of the curtains and managed to make friends with my mates dog - she would 'ride' him when he came round. In the evenings she would stop whatever she was doing and come and curl up on the sofa with me. She particularly liked popcorn and monkey nuts.

She was very clean (showered every day!) and because I trained her to use a rat toilet her cage never got too smelly. Bloody hamsters like to pee where they sleep - the smell is ridiculous.

I'll bow to anyone with better knowledge than me though - I'm not a 'professional' rat keeper! All mine were fine (I've had 4 over the years), all lived 3-4 years, but I may have just been lucky

stickygotstuck Wed 13-Feb-13 18:18:26

Thanks both for the rat information.

I think I'll take DD to a pet shop, see how she reacts to rats and guinea pigs. I'll also do a lot of research beforehand.

My pets growing up were a budgie and a tortoise, so I don't know much about keeping furry creatures. Tortoise is still in the family almost 30 years later! She is great, and DD loves playing with her when we visit, but not really suited to our climate here. Contrary to what some people believe, she is very sociable and interacts a lot with everybody (specially with their shoes!)

I think I'll also research how to keep tortoises/terrapins hmm.

Any other successful sibling substitution stories out there?

TheAccidentalExhibitionist Fri 01-Mar-13 10:08:20

We have two cats and two dogs, our only DS loves them all. I would say the cats have worked out best for night times, dogs for day time. My DS was lonely and afraid in his room at night and the cats sleep on his bed with him. The added bonus is that they are no work at all, just a bowl of buscuits and water in the mornings!
Dogs are good too, one is a play mate, the other gives him cuddles. They help us to get him out the house too as we walk them together every day.

NeverendingStoryteller Sun 10-Mar-13 23:23:43

We have a little, well-tempered dog and he and DS7 love each other to bits and provide each other with excellent company. Dog walking is an excellent way for DS to start having a bit of independence, and he is also responsible for feeding and watering the dog, so it helps him to contribute to the household chores. While I wouldn't allow dog to sleep in the same bed as DS7, if he ever asked, I would be happy for the dog to sleep in his his room, as long as the dog is in his bed and DS is in his bed!

ripsishere Mon 11-Mar-13 04:12:12

I have an only. My DD has been through numerous pets! her last lot were two fish, not terribly exciting.
Before that she had two cats - cried a lot when we had to leave them in England, an aquarium of fish, a tortoise, gerbils, hamsters and stick insects.
Just before Christmas I looked at miniature hedgehogs. Unfortunately, dH wasn't keen so she doesn't have anything now.

WankbadgersBreakfast Mon 11-Mar-13 05:00:46

We have cats- four to be precise, 2 fosters and 2 "permanent residents." DD utterly adores them, follows them, cuddles them (for as long as they will let her) and chatters happily to them for hours. Her especial favourite is one of the fosters- if we still have her by the time DD is four we will probably adopt her ourselves.

As you're not up for a cat though, a rat is pretty cool. My rat-owning friend reckons they're like a mouse crossed with a dog. They're also happy to ride in the hood of your jumper all day, coming out to whiffle in your ear envy

MyBaby1day Thu 11-Apr-13 10:01:59

Rats are AMAZING!!. I PMed you OP!!. As an only child my substitute was my PUPPET-Clifford!! kidding grin. I loved him and still do!!. I never asked for pets and was in my teens by the time we got the rats but they are brilliant!. I want a monkey some day in the future!!.

Irons Fri 12-Apr-13 22:38:28

I'm currently having this issue with my DD who is coming up to 4 yo. She constantly asks for a baby sister. We have had two dogs which have been around since before she was born and she adores them to no end, yet she still wants a real sibling.

It's funny because when I wanted a child and my husband wasn't ready I thought having the dogs would solve the problem. But it didn't. I still wanted the real thing! Although pets are wonderful they just don't fill that gap.

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